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Learning to Respond, Not React

When faced with a negative situation, we often have a tendency to react instantly, without thinking about whether our reaction may make the situation worse. Reactions are instant and we act without thinking. For example, when faced with anger, we may react with further anger, effectively making the conflict much worse. Responding, on the other hand, is when we take into account all the information about the situation, and form a response that will lead to the best possible resolution for everyone involved.

Reactions are based on the immediate emotions when feel when faced with a negative situation. Reacting is easier than responding because it requires little thinking. Dr. Lori Stevic-Rust, in a 2014 Huffington Post article entitled Do You Respond or React, explains, “Reacting to situations, events and comments from others is certainly easier than responding. A reaction is purely emotional and protective and only requires the most primitive area of the brain to be activated. The more advanced areas of the brain are not activated or required when we react. All mammals have the capacity to be reactive.” We become defensive and act on impulse when we are reacting, and do not take into consideration that another course of action may be best.

Responding to a situation requires that we stop for a moment and consider what would be the best course of action for ourselves and others. Dr. Matt James, in a 2016 Psychology Today article entitled React vs Respond, explains, “A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly. It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. A response will be more ‘ecological,’ meaning that it takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.” By responding, we can keep in line with the spiritual principles of recovery in even those most distressing of situations.

Learning to respond rather than react takes time. We should do our best to pause when we feel a reaction coming, and do our best to breathe and wait until the reaction goes away. Then, according to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, we should “consider what the most intelligent, compassionate response might be. What can we do that will help our relationship, teach, build a better team or partnership, make the situation better, calm everyone down, including ourselves? At first, you might mess up. But in time, you’ll learn to watch this reaction, and you’ll get better at the pause. Don’t fret if you mess up — just resolve to be more mindful when it happens next time. Take note of what happened to trigger your reaction, and pay attention when something like that happens again.” For our sobriety and mental health, we should do our best not to fall into a state of immediate reaction when we are faced with a negative situation. Instead, we can do our best to respond with a code of love and tolerance of others, and search for the best possible outcome.

Your life can become one of serenity and peace of mind in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a happy and healthy future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, believes in addressing every mental, physical, and spiritual aspect of addiction to give you the best possible chance of achieving and maintaining long-term sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431