A Reaction is a term used to describe an adverse situation where we lose our composure, equanimity, or calmness in response to a situation or event that involves unwanted feelings hijacking us. These emotions can include intense feelings of pain, sadness, fear, anger, or indignation that manifest as a fixation on being “right”, can be either conscious or unconscious, and are accompanied by a physiological response that can be felt most intensely in our chest or stomach.
Reactions are usually instant, uncontrollable, and overwhelming to our rational response causing us to say or do things that are not well thought out, hurtful or harmful to others or ourselves. Typically the core emotion or package of emotions relates to unresolved issues from the past that the current situation or event has triggered.
Trigger vs Reaction
Despite the overwhelming feeling that the trigger of the reaction is the cause of the unwanted emotions, they are separate and distinct. Consider a firearm. The trigger sets off the firing mechanism that launches a pin into the back of the cartridge setting off the explosive, which propels the bullet. The trigger merely actuates the mechanism that results in the explosion (reaction).
Don’t Blame the Trigger
In order to resolve unwanted reactions and prevent future reoccurrence, one must correctly separate the trigger from the cause of the reaction and resolve the cause. That means being willing to look into our past experiences.
Incorrectly assigning blame to the trigger person, event or situation is a surefire way to avoid the cause and the responsibility, therefore ensuring no change and a repeat of the reaction in the future. This would ensure that we are at the effect of the triggers around us!
Over time a pattern of incorrectly assigning the cause (blame) of our reactions leads to avoiding the people, events, or circumstances that we think are doing it to us. This mechanism is the primary cause of boom and bust cycles, long-term avoidance or inability to engage in satisfying primary relationships, playing small in life, and a general state of fear and contraction. Imagine for a moment one assigned the blame to lose, having or otherwise dealing with money… clearly, this would cause an inability to make, keep or be responsible for the money.
Responsibility means that we own our reactions are our reactions and while people, events, or circumstances may trigger our reactions, we are responsible for the reaction itself including the past experience that contains the unwanted emotions.
Unfortunately, most people spend a considerable amount of time either avoiding situations that trigger reactions or dealing with the unpleasant aftereffects of a reaction and the resultant undesirable behavior. Since we know that our results in life are driven by our behaviors and that a large part of our behaviors is caused by our reactions, we can say with certainty that this is one of the primary ways that past negative experiences influence our current results.
Transformation of Reactions = Transformation of Results
By taking responsibility for our reactions and committing to a life-long journey to become Reaction Free we are able to transform our results in ways that we could not previously predict or even contemplate as possible.
Some of the areas one can expect to transform include improved ability to: communicate, ask for what you want, speak in public, maintain harmony in relationships, feel joy and happiness, sustain focus, resolve upsets, negotiate contracts, handle rejection, develop new relationships, handle difficult people and challenging situations, avoid conflict, increase income, retain more of what you make, lead people, inspire people to action, and much, much more!
We Become Numb or Over-Sensitive
Repeated, recurring reactions cause us to desensitize to the reaction and over time we become either numb to our emotions or highly sensitive and over-reactive. This means that we cannot afford to ignore our reactions because the longer we leave them and “live with them” the more numb or over-sensitive we become. It also means that the bigger game we commit to playing in life the more reactions we will run into.
A Chain Reaction is where two or more people experience a reaction to another person who in turn reacts to them and so on so forth. We call this “going to hell in a handbasket” and can be very difficult to get out of because neither person is able to think clearly and therefore communicates from their reaction to make the other person’s reaction worse.
When a person is “communicating from their reaction” they believe that the person in front of them that triggered their reaction is the cause of their unwanted feelings, is hostile towards them, and does not realize that their perceptions are skewed by the intensity of their reactions. This means that they are not seeing or hearing what is said accurately and literally see and hear things that are not done or said. You could say that they are “making up s..t”.
People who engage in tit-for-tat actions from perceived slights or offenses are often doing so from reaction and are only making matters worse which leads to an escalating “cycle of violence”.
Perceived Threats to Survival
If a person perceives that their physical survival, reputation, money, job, business, or relationship is under threat (real or imagined) they can become so triggered by the circumstances that they succumb to a “single person chain reaction” that can be very difficult to get out of. Out of desperation, they take counterproductive actions that lead to an even greater threat to their survival, which leads to even more desperate actions. This is a “death spiral”.
It’s a Minefield
Have you ever been in a relationship with a person who was so sensitive to small nuances that they go into reaction at the slightest provocation? This is like walking through a minefield, you never know when you are going to step on a mine and blow yourself up. These people force everyone around them to deal with their reactions and take zero responsibility for them while at the same time make a huge deal out of your once-in-a-while reaction. In some cases these people are so reactive they can’t help themselves. In other cases, they are using their reactions to control and dominate the people around them.
12 Rules of Reaction
The following are a set of guidelines to support your journey to becoming Reaction Free:
- Commit to being Reaction Free and take responsibility for your reactions.
- See every reaction as an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop more capability.
- Know when you or others are in a reactive state.
- Recognize triggers from reactions from causes.
- Don’t believe everything you think or feel when you or others are clearly in a reactive state.
- Don’t make major decisions when you are in reaction.
- Learn and apply the best way to disengage yourself from the reaction.
- Master the skills to avoid other people’s reactions and to effectively get them out of reaction in the most speedy and graceful way possible.
- If possible, communicate with the other person or people that you are in reaction, and just need a little time to get out of it.
- Use every time you have a reaction as an opportunity to gain clarity about yourself and to master getting out of it faster and resolving more of your unresolved past.
- Don’t use your reactions as an excuse for low performance or to justify taking your negative feelings out on them.
- Understand your limits and don’t aggressively put yourself into overwhelm by setting off too many reactions that you can’t cope with.
What is the Fastest Way to Become Reaction Free?
The fastest way to resolve one’s reactions and to become Reaction Free is via a relationship where both partners share a common context and utilize communication tools to identify the original cause of their reactions so as to resolve them so they don’t repeat.
If you surround yourself with people at work and home who share the same context and desire to become Reaction Free, the result is over time feelings of freedom, being in control of one’s life, peace, and genuine serenity increase. This leads to higher levels of satisfaction with life, relationships, and enhanced performance in all areas.
More tools, support, and educational programs are available:
Sometimes one-on-one coaching can help:
Good luck and here is to more freedom from unwanted emotions, reactions, and blame!
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Leadership Advocate and Co-Founder of the Goldzone Group. I help leaders to master the new rules of leadership for the new economy. Over the past 30 years, I have visited more than 500 cities in 54 countries to explore, learn from, and help many of the world’s leading companies, leaders, and luminaries in science, technology, health, finance, and entrepreneurship.