REACTivity: Do you find yourself caught in the web of emotion?
Why is it that we allow our minds, our thinking, to get so caught up in emotion when we are triggered by an event or situation we perceive as threatening? I’m not here to discuss the fight or flight response which some identify as an innate. I’d like to look at the situation from a continually evolved perspective that leans more towards the idea of behavior and our formation of habits!
This whole identification came to me via an experience I recently had, as experiences seem to teach us more than we are at times ready to learn! Someone recently accused me of something that I had a very strong reaction to. My reaction was not so much in response to the accusation, but to the way the person chose to bring the situation to my attention. Instead of asking me if there was truth to what she believed I had done, she was telling me I had done something wrong. In response to the accusation, “my habit” provoked response was to in some way prove she was misinformed. Which immediately breads a need to prove that if you are wrong, that means I must be right! The problem however did not lie with her perception, nor with my need to show her she was mistaken. The real challenge was to determine why my thinking had led me to the response that was elicited. Why was my emotional reaction so strong? What was it causing me to feel? What was I telling myself in the process?
As unique as our experiences may be, as a therapist, I find that this GO TO response is a common reaction arising from habit when a superficial scab (so to speak) is touched. The habit/reaction is the inflammation of that scab. Once something infectious i.e. someone’s judgment or criticism touches that unhealed wound, the inflammation is our habit of response, because the infection is uncomfortable, even painful.
Looking even deeper, something to determine and ask ourselves is simply this: is it the pain of the situation we are responding to out of habit, or rather not knowing how to deal with the feelings that arise for us when that pain is triggered? Which within it self, can be even more uncomfortable.
Needless to say I recognize those gentle spots in me that I work to continually address for the purpose of healing. Patience with ourselves and each other is a necessary means to the process of working through the negative habits. Even as we continue on our path toward change, we sometimes revisit those old negatives that in an instant can bring us back to a former self who reacts to situations, instead of responding to what is provoking the response in us. That’s ok though! Practice (doesn’t) make perfect! Practice makes Practice! As you continue in your practice of growth, understanding and change, applying what you have been practicing becomes easier. There will be more of a distance between you, the habit, and that whom your desire is to ultimately become. Continue to practice patience with yourself even if you find yourself temporarily caught in what can feel like a web of emotion.