Don’t do Something Permanently Stupid Just Because You are Temporarily Upset
Gracy Wilson, my journalist friend in UK, is a very hot tempered person. She has issues with the editor, management and most of the people she meets. She reacts to each and everything in life. She just can’t tolerate any injustice and unethical activities.
We were connected through LinkedIn. She went through my website. We had a long chat about the life and its beauty. She asked me: “You are telling not to react, but to respond. Each and every situation in life is different. How to respond? Where to react? And how will we know whether it is a reaction or respond? It is easy for you to write or preach. But you can’t walk the talk…”
“Hmm…” I keyed in.
“I am a responsible person” she said.
“Responsibility = ability to respond” I said.
She didn’t say anything for a moment. Then she said: “I know my short-coming. I know I react instantly and not respond properly. I really don’t understand the difference…”
“Oh, what’s there to understand? Reaction is automatic and usually immediate – it comes from the emotions; it lacks control. A response includes an action, but can be and usually is considered, and not necessarily immediate. When you respond, that means you are in control. When you react, that means that you have surrendered control to someone else…And most of the times, a sudden reaction creates permanent damage in human relationships or in life. Sometimes it ruins our/others entire life…” I said.
“When a doctor tells you are reacting to the medicine that’s bad; when he tells you are responding to the medicine that’s good. Reaction comes out of your past conditioning; it is mechanical. Response comes out of your presence, awareness, consciousness; it is non-mechanical.”
“I am Masters in English so I know the definitions and explanations of the both. My question was how to respond, and not react?” she got impatient and began reacting.
“Our natural instinct is to react. A natural inclination towards responding, however, comes with time and practice. You have to develop awareness…”
“Now you are talking…please continue…”
“My ancestors have called it “Prati kriya” (react) and “Anu Kriya” (respond) in Sanskrit. Prati means against or in opposition with. An action against something is reaction. Anu means after, along or further. Kriya means just action. So both words include action which is needed in every situation. It’s not the situation, but whether we react (negative) or respond (positive) to the situation that’s important. As you know the life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. It’s about what you do with what happens.” I said.
“Ok, ok, don’t talk too much of philosophy… but how to practice it?”
“When anything happens ask yourself four questions – Was it intentional? Is this really a big deal? Am I in automatic mode or aware? Is this worth ruining a relationship over? Then mostly you would find forgiveness is a good choice.”
“But when it needed to be countered by an action?”
“As a first step, give a space and create a gap between you and the stimulus. Then put yourself in the other persons’ shoes – How would you like to be treated if it were you….Ask yourself – am I reacting? Simply asking yourself that question can ground you and give you a quick mental break to perhaps choose differently”
“In case, I am getting an urgent phone call on mobile?”
“If you do not know how to respond, try not to pick up the call until and unless it is a life-and-death issue. Similarly do not reply to SMS immediately. Keep a gap between any communications”
“That’s a great idea. Coming back to life situation, what should I do instead of my hot tempered scolding?”
“It’s not just what you say but how you say it. Be careful about the tone you use while speaking to someone over an incident that may have upset you. Be polite, but firm.”
“Hmmm…But it is difficult as situation is different in different context…” she said.
“Any given situation is a fact. It is just an objective fact when you perceive it without a reaction. A reaction is the incapacity to accept the fact. When you react, you do not see the fact. If you accept the fact AS IS and without your interpretation, you can see that you can act in both ways – one is reaction, another is response…This awareness will come to you.”
“Be specific, if my editor scolds me, how can I respond?” she asked.
“Ok – your editor calls you idiot. If you are not an idiot, why should you react? That’s his perception or opinion. Why should you try to change it? And if you are really an idiot, he is making a true statement of fact. Why should you react or respond?”
“Uday, that’s a pathetic joke. If he calls me names?”
“If he calls you a monkey, look at the mirror and make sure that you don’t look like a monkey. Then politely tell him to have his eyes checked and you don’t see any monkeys around…”
She sent a laughing smiley.
“Gracy, we all make mistakes, we all say dumb things occasionally, and we’re only human after all. So in the event of you reacting emotionally, apologize to people. Not only is it important to apologize to the other person, it is also important to forgive yourself. Always respond intelligently even to an unintelligent treatment. Please don’t do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset” I said.
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org