We don’t really have experiences in life. We have reactions to experiences. Things don’t happen to us. Things happen in and of themselves, and what we do is react to them. It’s not the existence of standstill traffic that effects us, because if it’s happening, say across town and we don’t know about it, it doesn’t bother us. But if the cars are at a dead stop on the very road that we need to take, suddenly we are activated, and we react to the existence of traffic. It’s not the traffic we are experiencing, it’s our reaction to it! Built into our hardwiring as humans is the fight or flight response, which we needed way back in the caveman era to keep us safe. But we’ve evolved…there is a third option, which is to neither fight nor flee, and that is, to just stay and breathe. If you start to see your emotional feathers getting ruffled, just step back from yourself, come back into your body, watch your breath and feel the reactiveness dissipate. If reactions happen, come out of your head, and anchor into your body…
Surely you’ve noticed how some people, experiences, events, interactions, etc. bring out strong reactions in you while others do not. The reactions may be positive or negative, but they are strong and are very knee jerk in nature. When the wavelike sensation of reaction passes, we may look back at those moments with regret, shame, puzzlement, or even pride and satisfaction. Either way, I think they’re worth a second look.
These strong reactions are our teachers.
9 times out of 10, when we take some time to analyze the source or “why?” of the reaction and then consider what those reactions are really doing for us, what they are serving emotionally, physically, spiritually…there is really interesting information waiting. Perhaps they allow us to dig a bit deeper into the work of self knowledge and reflection. Perhaps they are feeding some sort of negative internal dialogue or maybe we are just parroting back what was modeled for us as children. Perhaps there are reactions that do not serve us well and by simply realizing that, they lessen their hold and we eventually become completely free of them. Children are great teachers in this way. The buttons they push are not by accident. In fact, all relationships push our buttons for the purpose of transformation and growth. So the next time you find yourself spiraling into a strong reaction, try to stop for a moment and breath deeply. What is it specifically that you are reacting to? See if you can figure out when in your life you started reacting so strongly in this way and why. Awareness is where transformation begins.