Have you ever experienced a situation where you reacted to something one way only to realize later that a different approach would have been better? Perhaps you’ve spoken words you would rather have not said. Have you ever had an argument with someone and wished the conversation had gone differently? Sometimes the difference between a great outcome and a less beneficial one in a particular situation comes down to whether we’ve reacted or responded to the situation.
Early one morning, Nancy was walking her 3 adorable poodles when she heard a loud wailing sound coming from the canal that runs through her neighborhood. It had just rained alot and the canal was overflowing with running water. Nancy feared there were cats stuck in the railings of the canal and it was their pleas for help she was hearing. Nancy was beside herself with worry and just knew she had to save the cats! So she ran, 3 dogs in tow, to her friend’s house and they both ran back to the canal to try to rescue the cats. As it turned out, the wailing sound she’d heard was actually a group of frogs croaking as they lazily floated down the water now flowing in the canal. I bet the frogs were probably communicating how happy they were to finally be surrounded so abundantly by water again.
Nancy’s story got me thinking…If that had happened to me, would I have responded or would I have reacted to the situation? If I were in that situation, where would my responsibility to “check in” come in? Would I have taken the time to check in with my own intuition and would it have informed me that there was no danger, only frogs enjoying the morning? That’ s the type of information we have access to when we’re connection intuitively.
Or picture yourself in this scenario. You’re running late to work, yet again, early one morning and go to start your car. You hear this incredible combination high-pitched screeching and at the same time, low pitched grinding sound coming from the engine. Your heart lurches in fear when you realize you’re out of power steering fluid for the car and have no spare fluid laying around in the back seat. Your choices are to wait an hour for a cab (and be even later to work) or try and drive the car to the nearest gas station hoping the engine doesn’t lock up on you before you get there.
What do you do? Do you hit the steering wheel and cry out in frustration “why is this happening to ME right NOW, today of all days?” Or do you relax, review your alternatives and ask your Intuitive Self for solutions?
There’s a difference between those two alternatives. One is reacting to the situation and the other is responding to it and the two approaches have different outcomes.
Or imagine this…you’re at work and your boss calls you in for a meeting. You think it’s to give you a much deserved raise; afterall, you have been working lots of overtime lately and doing an excellent job. Instead of that raise, however, your boss complains about budget cuts and asks you to do more for less. How would you respond? Or would you react?
RESPONDING VS. REACTING
Sometimes we just can’t help but react. When we perceive our or another’s life is in danger, we react instinctively. The Fight of Flight response kicks in and we’re off to the races. Yet, in other situations, there is no danger of loss of life and yet and still we react instinctively, only to discover later that our overboard reaction was unnecessary.
In those non-life-threatening situations, I’ve learned that by choosing to respond instead of react, I can take what appears to be a challenging event and turn it into an opportunity for empowerment, connection and working with the Divine.
Here are a few examples of responding vs. reacting:
- “My car’s going to lock up”…vs…I’ll ask Spirit for help with this.
- Arguing with a coworker…vs… Disconnecting from the conversation to regain balance so I can view the situation from a higher perspective before commenting.
- Getting angry at someone who cuts in front of me in their car…vs… focusing on my own thankfulness for how much time I have to get where I’m going with ease and grace.
- Prejudging a situation…vs…asking “what’s going on here”.
- Constantly Interrupting others …vs…hearing them out and then developing my response from a balanced, informed state.
- Walking out on negotiations…vs…responding with a counteroffer that meets the needs of both parties.
To Respond is our Natural State of Being
The difference between responding and reacting is emphasized in the old saying “hindsight is 20/20.
When we have the advantage of hindsight, we have the advantage of “more information”. Having more information helps us to make better decisions for all parties involved in any given situation. By responding, we place ourselves in a positive stance to receive more accurate and helpful information for our path.
In fact, when we respond, versus react, we come from a place that is actually very natural for us – a place of balance and flexibility and openness. Those are our most natural states of being. Those states are prime for allowing our intuitive nature to move to the forefront to provide us with information and suggestions as to how to proceed.
How Does it Feel to Respond?
I can tell whether I’m reacting or responding by how my body feels:
When I’m reacting, my body tenses, my breath is short and I feel pain, fear, victimized and defensive. I feel angry and want to retaliate. When I’m responding, I feel expansive, light, peaceful, empowered, supported and free.
The difference between how responding and reacting feels in my body came to me just this weekend while I was stretching. I was doing the stretch where you interlock your hands behind your head and then pull your head down towards your chest. I noticed that the more I fought the stretch, the harder it was for me to stretch comfortably. As opposed to if I simply relaxed my body while doing stretching, I found that my body relaxed itself into the stretch much more easily. By not reacting (pushing against the stretch), I noticed my body did what it does best on its own, which is relax and heal. When I did this, I felt this magical wave of energy and feeling of release spreading across my back and through my entire upper body. It was almost as if my body was saying, “Thank you! I’ll take care of this for you!”
TIPS FOR RESPONDING VS. REACTING.
Step 1: Become Aware – Observe your behaviors to notice over the course of a week how often you are responding or reacting.
Which approach did you choose? How did each approach feel to you? For example, was your stomach hurting? If so, that might be a signal that you were feeling powerless. Was your chest tight? That could signal an issue involving loving acceptance of yourself or others.
The more we practice paying attention to the signals from our body and what they mean for us individually, the easier it becomes to notice the signals our body is sending us the next time. We can then use these physical reactions as clues to underlying, recurring issues that await our attention and healing. These reactions of our body are keys to opportunities for growth, expansion and further awareness of self.
When I first began paying more attention to this, I was amazed at how many opportunities presented each day where I was making the choice between these two approaches. Have fun with this process though and keep it light. Often our simple awareness of whether we’re reacting or responding will be enough to trigger the process of change.
Step 2 – Pause: Disconnect from the situation for whatever time is necessary to regain your balance.
You’re in the moment. You’ve observed your manners of being and have come to recognize the signs so that you know you’ll soon have to decide what to do – respond or react. In the heat of the moment, our emotions can take over, if we let them, and before we know it we’ve reacted instead of responded, and are already hitting the waves of regret. Before this happens, STOP, and give yourself time to balance and reflect on the most beneficial approach.
Step 3 – Balance: Use the breath, meditation, visualization or body tapping to regain your balance.
Here are some of the methods I use to regain balance quickly:
a. Place your hand or your energetic focus on your heart and take 3 deep breaths.
b. Count to 10 and concentrate on actually seeing the numbers on a chalkboard between your eyes (I find this helps distract my mind from the situation).
c. Repeat the phrase “I am that I am”. (I usually feel my body instantly relax when I say this.)
d. Do body tapping.
e. Meditate or visualize yourself in your favorite place, i.e. lying on a beach, floating on the water, sitting in the middle of a field of beautiful flowers or an expansive mountaintop, etc.
The above are just a few examples of how to regain balance quickly. Use whatever works for you to decrease the “fire” of an emotional state.
Step 4 –Connect with Heart/Intuitive Self: Ask your Heart for suggestions as to the most beneficial course of action right now.
I notice that when I’m balanced, it’s easier for my intuitive self to step forward and provide positive, beneficial solutions to the particular situation. Our Divine, Intuitive Self, our Sacred Heart, never leads us astray. It has the answers to all our questions as it is our connection to the One Mind and always responds with choices and alternatives in full recognition of our everlasting nature and oneness with All That Is.
Ask yourself “what’s really behind what’s going on here,” “what do I really want from this situation,” “what’s the bigger picture,” or “what should I do,” “how would it be most beneficial for me to respond right now.”
Step 5 – Be Kind to Yourself: Change takes time and you are much more than your behavior.
The energetic vibrations of guilt, remorse, sorrow and self-loathing are low. Remember that you are not your behaviors. You are an infinite Spirit that’s come here to play, learn and experience in the game of life. There are no failures, just further opportunities to reflect and decide to do things differently the next time around. Your very attention to whether you are responding or reacting is a huge step. Give yourself time for change to take place and treat yourself lovingly and appreciatively as you do so.
HOW RESPONDING VS. REACTING BENEFITS YOU:
The more you practice responding, the more quickly you will recognize when you’re reacting and the easier switching to responding will become. Once you begin seeing how much better it really feels within you to respond instead of react, those recognitions will spur you into choosing that approach again and again. With each decision to do so, you’ll see that it becomes easier and easier to do so, until eventually, the mode of responding instead of reacting will become second nature to you.
When I focus on responding, a magical thing happens. It’s much easier for loving, beneficial alternatives for my choosing to rise to the surface. Peace shows up. Abundance shows up. Respectful and effective communications with others results.
I find that responding from a balanced state of connectedness, instead of reacting:
- Helps me to see that things are not always as they seem;
- Help me to connect in and balance before letting my fears take over my energy;
- Helps me to remain balanced for longer periods of time;
- Helps me to raise my vibration to increasingly higher levels (since I’m not doing the yo-yo states); and
- Helps me to Co-Create my life from an empowered, supported state of being (instead of allowing my life to unfold for me mainly as a result of the whims of mass consciousness).
Responding instead of reacting helps me take what may appear to be a challenging event and turn it into an opportunity for empowerment, connection and working with the Divine.
In essence, responding instead of reacting HELPS ME!
Perhaps you’ll find that it helps you too!
How about you? Are you responding or reacting most often? What types of situations do you find yourself reacting to most often instead of responding? In what areas or situation are you able to respond most easily? How would you respond to Scenario C?
Love, peace and blessings,