What is the difference between responding and reacting?
When we react to a new situation, we are acting upon pure emotions that have been influenced by our history and experiences and do not provide us with the means to make a judgment based upon the reality of the present situation.
We are driven by emotions. Emotions, which are the province of our right brains, are the source of all of our motivations. If someone sustains damage to their right brain, they lose the capacity to do anything of their own volition. Getting dressed, getting out of bed become things they have to be instructed to do. The emotions of the right brain are where we make our connections between events and can generate motivational energy that is expressed through the organized and logical actions of our left-brain dominated life.
Whether or not it seems like it, everyone around you is a mass of immediate and constantly changing emotional reactions - this is the nature of the human mind. That is why reacting to things can be so disruptive because our emotional minds do not rationally think through consequences. They are responding based upon our historical experiences. Your emotional reaction comes first. Babies, with no language and or even focus, will respond, even if they are hungry, to an expression of love and comfort over food. Emotional reactions are very valid and important but not necessarily the best judge of the reality because they are based upon our perceptions rather than our ability to see a situation in context. You may not even be aware of the emotions that come first because emotions trigger thoughts and it happens faster than we can process in our waking state.
It may feel like being handed a new task and immediately jumping on it is without emotion and just being responsible and efficient, but that kind of response may lie well within your history of experience and be motivated by the emotions of fear or resentment. You are not capable of efficiency if you are reacting out of fear.
As adults, things become more complicated.
Even faster than our emotional reactions can trigger a thought that we then act on, the thought itself becomes an event that can then trigger another emotion. We can take a moment of resentment and turn into a self-perpetuating feeling of being overwhelmed and unjustly treated.
c.2011 Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved