Responding Instead Of Reacting

Loni Communication, Emotion, Family, parenting, Personal well being, Therapy Leave a Comment

written by: Amy Frandsen, LCSW

Responding Instead of Reacting
Difficulties in relationships are often caused by our inability or unwillingness to have mindful
awareness and mastery of our own emotions. Most of the time, we feel like a person “made
me feel ___”… whatever emotion you overwhelmingly felt, whether that emotion is anger, joy,
frustration, hurt, or excitement. The truth is, no one can MAKE us feel any emotion without our willingness and decision to feel that way. That gives other people WAY too much control in your life! The truth is, we are responsible for our own emotions and the behaviors that follow. The truth is, in the split seconds between an interaction and the emotion we feel, we have chosen the thoughts and
perception that then shape the emotions, that then influence our behaviors. The sequence is
always: THOUGHTS – EMOTIONS – REACTION

Our response is what others see or feel from us. There is often little time between the
interaction/event and the reaction. Sometimes we can feel as though we had a knee-jerk
reaction, or that we could not have reacted any other way. When we feel out of control, it is
because we haven’t taken the time and effort to choose how to respond. The truth is, we always have a choice in the way we respond. The truth is, we can have complete control over our thoughts and perceptions. Instead of quickly reacting to an interaction/event, many people find more mastery in choosing how to respond by simply taking MINDFUL TIME between the interaction/event and their
chosen response. So the sequence could look like this:

(mindful time) T H O U G H T S – EMOTIONS – RESPONSE

The time is taken in noticing our thoughts, and choosing them deliberately. Change the
thoughts that do not serve our ultimate goals and desires. By being deliberate and controlled
in the thoughts we allow, our emotions are also carefully chosen and mastered. Our response
is then educated by the thoughts we have chosen to think, and the emotions we have chosen
to feel. In other words, take MINDFUL TIME between the interaction/event, and doing something in
return.

“The key to creating the mental space before responding is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way
of being present: paying attention to and accepting what is happening in our lives. It helps us to be aware of and step away from our automatic and habitual reactions to our everyday
experiences.” –Elizabeth Thornton

Some techniques to help you do this:
1. Practice slow and measured breathing to slow things down in the moment
2. Count to 10 and back again slowly
3. Take some time and space (take a walk, leave the room)
4. Make a plan to pause, calm yourself down, and think in every situation so that it
becomes a natural response, especially in negative situations.
5. Practice!!
6. Forecast (look ahead) to situations that might especially need these skills and be
prepared to respond.

By taking time and effort to become more mindful in our thoughts, we can be more controlled
and purposeful in our responses, rather than reacting in habitual and undesirable ways. And
purposeful responses can be more loving and connecting in our relationships.

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