Your reactions create your reality in many ways. They control much of your external reality and the majority of your internal reality. They affect your relationships, home and work life, and your inner state of being. That’s why maintaining a strong self awareness is paramount. Here’s how to avoid making hard things worse, and how to create the more peaceful reality you deserve!
What Is Reactivity?:
Reactivity is the barking dog in the picture above. We may bark at a person, at ourselves, or at a situation in the current moment. The bark can point inward or outward. Either way, it’s detrimental.
When we react negatively to a situation or person our experience and state of being is dependent upon our external world. Our peace and mental and emotional state is under external control. (We want to avoid both of these things.)
Reactivity is when your actions are determined by your circumstances. It’s typically defensive in nature and seldom solution oriented.
The Difference Between Response And Reaction:
There is a massive difference between a response and reaction. Reactions serve the whims of our kneejerk emotions that tend to sprout from the “fight or flight” part of our brain. They rarely lead to true and lasting solutions. In fact, they most often lead to more negativity and perpetuate the problem.
Responses, on the other hand, are solution oriented. They transcend the emotions and serve solutions instead. They require thought and awareness. I’ll go further into that later when I discuss sacred solutions.
A keen self awareness is when you watch your thoughts and reactions like a hawk. You spot them scurrying into your mind with matching emotions tied to their tails. But your awareness snatches them up before they burrow too deep and take control of you. Self awareness and personal growth enhance each other. Both are essential for being your greatest self and fulfilling your greatest destiny.
Self awareness protects you from falling under control of the Else (the incessant, often negative, voice in your head). Self aware people think before they speak and act, not as a means of manipulation, but to identify the highest quality response. They understand the impact thoughts and reactions can have. In spite of any emotion that comes up, they choose a high quality response, rather than a destructive reaction spewing out of them without their conscious consent. Since the consequences of reactivity tend to lead to more dysfunction, this practice of self awareness benefits every aspect of life.
An Example Of Reactivity Gone Bad:
My husband just told me of a news story where a woman consumed with road rage rammed another car, killing everyone but the now orphaned eight year old boy. She lost control of herself to her reactive emotions for a split second and demolished many lives.
This is an extreme example of how reactivity creates your reality. However, even the little moments of snipping at your kids, spouse, friends, coworkers, and yourself are as erosive as water dripping on stone. Those little moments of negative reactivity can add up to a frequent way of being that blocks the light of your true self—your Soul self. This causes a useless loss of peace for yourself and those around you.
Example Of A High Quality Response:
One day my family were driving to my parents’ house. We’d made a huge steaming pot of carne guisada to take. It was so full it was almost overflowing. My husband had to take turns extra slowly and stop the car ever so gently. We knew we were that annoying car taking forever to do everything.
Now, when we’re behind a car that takes a million years to turn, instead of getting annoyed, we always say, “They must have a full pot of carne guisada in their car.”
With this higher quality response we can laugh at a situation that would cause impatience and frustration for a reactive mindset. We save ourselves from the pointless upset that annoyance and negativity creates.
We All Have Mental Dis-order:
I know this sounds gloomy, but hear me out! After all, we’re here to grow and heal aren’t we?
Affective disorder is any mental or mood disorder, such as anxiety, depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder, in which a major disturbance of feelings or emotions is dominant and causes dysfunction or prevents normal function in life.
So, I’m talking about our inner world, our mental world. Unless you’re a monk or saint, you probably have some to quite a bit of dis-order in your mind. Nothing to be ashamed of; it’s part of being human.
I fully recognize there are legitimate mental disturbances and chemical imbalances about which we still have much to learn. However, I would suggest that we all suffer from at least an occasional mild case of what I call situational affective dis-order in which a major disturbance of feelings or emotions is dominant and dependent upon external circumstances.
We experience this when we repeat in our minds a painful story from our past that continuously brings up negative emotions and places us in shadowed states of being: anxiety, anger, fear, despair. These emotions almost consume us.
Another example of situational affective dis-order is when we get so mad at the person that steals our parking spot, or when our kid leaves their stuff all over the house, or when our husband gets the wrong item at the store, or when we spill salsa on our favorite sweater, when someone hurts you, or when your crush doesn’t call you back, or when something goes “wrong” or “bad”, or when something happens that we feel “shouldn’t happen”.
Become Aware Of The Space:
A situation and our reaction aren’t one and the same—much as we might think. They are two completely separate events, and only one of which we have control. There is a space, a sacred space gifted to us between every event and our response. It’s our opportunity and responsibility to choose wisely, to choose with our Soul selves rather than the Else, the naughty entity in our minds that tends to take over in prickly moments.
I experience situational affective dis-order pretty much every day. But now I am aware of the space between a situation and my response. This means I’m better able to stop the arising negative emotional reaction and replace it with a more thoughtful, solution oriented, high quality response.
How Your Reactions Create Your Reality:
Negative reactions block:
- currence (presence)
Without these things, any real solution in an argument or challenge is impossible. When no solution is created, the dysfunctional and undesirable situation continues in one form or another. Even though they may feel good and right at the time, negative reactions are fuel to the fire.
Our reactions determine our reality more than almost any external event. Our reactions shape our inner perceptions and experiences and vice versa. In addition, our reactions determine what becomes of the situation to which we react. They determine the situations to follow.
Any time someone does something or something happens to us, the three stages of reactivity begin. Here they are:
The Three Stages of Reactivity:
- Judgement/label of person or situation: We judge the situation or person’s actions as “good” or “bad”, “should” or “shouldn’t” happen. This judgement determines the resulting emotions.
- Emotional response: Our emotions determine our perception and experience of the situation.
- Take action: Driven by the emotion that’s based on our judgement, we take action. A negative judgement usually leads to yelling, fighting, anger, impatience, rudeness…all the hurtful things that typically don’t create true solutions. In fact, they usually lead to more problems.
We can break the cycle at any point. However, we can avoid the whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotions if we enter awareness before the judgement/labeling occurs, or at least the moment we notice a negative reaction bubbling up.
We Judge And Label Situations:
Our label of an event or situation is the gateway to situational affective dis-order. Not only is it the gateway to our negative state, it is also our excuse for our reaction and our bad behavior.
When anything happens or someone does something our brains kick into analysis mode to decide how to feel and what to do. A completely unaware person is at the mercy of their subconscious mind which functions primarily on patterns created throughout life. These are often very dysfunctional patterns.
When we label something as “bad” or “not supposed to happen” we tend to end up in a negative state, which leads to negative reactions that create only more undesirable situations.
We Blame Our Reactions On The Situation:
“Well, I only did it because (blank) happened!”
When we justify and blame our reactions and the state of our inner world on external circumstances, we weasel out of our accountability and responsibility for our response-ability.
What’s worse is we give up our power. We give full control of our inner world to an ever changing, ever challenging world outside of us.
Where Do Our Reactions Come From?:
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’re familiar with the Else. The Else is the entity in your mind that creates the incessant, often negative, thoughts in your head. It plays a major part in our lives, so I suggest learning about it immediately if not sooner!
The Else looooves to react negatively to people and situations. Negativity is like crack to the Else. And since the Else is often in charge of our thoughts, it gets its hits easily and on a regular basis. Then you get to experience the repercussions. Not so fun for us, but even the repercussions feed the Else because it gives it sad stories and more negativity to suck on.
Shadow sides are our unhealed wounds and patterns from our childhood. We all have them. When a person or situation pokes at them, we defensively react. While much of it is subconscious, we can use the negative emotions and reactions as guideposts that point to our wounds. Once we recognize and heal them, we save ourselves from the vicious and painful cycles we put ourselves through.
Reactions Are Addictive:
As I mentioned before, the Else loves negativity. Even though we think we hate feeling mad, there’s also something about it that feels good. Especially when we “know” we’re right, and the other person is wrong.
The same is true for situations. There is a part of us that loves the negativity. I heard somewhere that news stations found out that their ratings were much higher when they told negative stories rather than positive stories. That’s why the news is almost all doom and gloom. And just like our own perceptions, it’s a fraction of the whole picture of our world, a jagged sliver of reality.
Our Reality Isn’t Always Reality:
Often our perception of a situation or person isn’t the whole truth. The lens through which we see the world reveals just a fraction of the whole of reality. It’s important to keep this in mind because this helps strengthen your self awareness as well as your compassion. Much of the time, what you think is happening isn’t actually happening. We often perceive a person’s intentions as different than they actually are. We also judge a person’s actions before considering the deeper reasons behind them.
I heard the saying, “Hurting people hurt people”. Keeping this in mind, we take people’s insults much less personally. We realize that what they do has little to do with us and most everything to do with the hurting, unhealed parts of them.
When you enter awareness, and you notice a reaction coming up, ask yourself, “Am I missing something here? Can I apply compassion, patience, and understanding?”.
How To Handle “Negative” Situations:
In reading this, you’ve probably said, “Wait! When someone is coming at me, I’m just supposed to do nothing? Be understanding?” Or, “When something shitty is happening, I’m just supposed to ignore it and smile?!!”
NO! Absolutely not! In fact, that is a common pitfall and misconception that the “Positivity Movement” can lead to.
In no means would I ever suggest allowing abuse, injustice, or preventable suffering to go unaddressed. At every point we must decide if action is necessary and possible.
There are many situations that we cannot allow to continue. Often, our negative emotions inform us of the presence of these situations. Action to change them is required. But not just any action. We must sit back for a second and investigate solutions rather than worsening reactions. I call them Sacred Solutions.
Sacred solutions are derived from our Soul selves rather than the Else. Our desire to serve and create the highest and greatest good directs our search for solutions.
Sacred solutions don’t give out power trips. Nor do they suppress, oppress, or further spread darkness, hatred, and negativity. Sacred solutions don’t combat. They transcend challenges by infusing light and love.
How To Create Sacred Solutions:
1) Remember our true identities:
We forget who we truly are throughout the day. Somehow, we lose touch with the truth that we and everyone else is a divine, infinite, immortal Soul.
Most of us believe in an afterlife, but live as if our lives have no significance to the formless Divine that gave us life in the first place. We behave with judgement, fear, rudeness, anger, impatience etc as if it has no impact on our Souls or the Souls around us.
How we act doesn’t just affect our lives and the humans around us. It affects our Souls and the Souls around us. It’s time we start taking responsibility for every choice, thought, and action taken unconsciously, every word said from a reactive, negative state of being. How can we expect world peace when we can’t create peace in our own lives, in our own inner worlds? Who’s gonna do it for us? It certainly isn’t the governments; they’ve proven that for thousands of years. World change begins with every individual. It begins from the inside out, from inside each of us.
Acceptance replaces our labeling and judgement of situations and other people. Acceptance isn’t a condoning. It’s an inner allowing that a person is as they are, and that a situation is what it is. Period. Acceptance is nonresistance to what is.
Acceptance saves you from the pointless suffering created by the resulting emotions of labeling and resisting what is.
Again, acceptance isn’t condoning, nor inaction or ignoring. Acceptance is an essential step to reaching a sacred solution. It’s required to best change situations that need changing.
Creativity is the reins to our inner state of being, as well as a great way out of reactivity. When you burn dinner, much creativity is required to respond with a sacred state (patience, acceptance) rather than react with a negative emotional state (annoyance, impatience, frustration). It’s soooo much easier to get mad than it is to take a breath, take a second, and choose a higher quality response.
“But it feels good to get mad! Don’t my feelings serve a purpose?“ you ask.
They do serve a purpose. They inform you that either you have chosen negativity over peace by placing control of your inner world externally, or there is a situation that requires a sacred solution.
Sacred/God/The Universe etc is creatively responsive rather than emotionally reactive. As seen in nature, even from destruction, nature is creative. The dead and rotting tree is nourishment for new life.
Our shadow states of being (impatience, frustration, anger, hurt feelings, judgment) are reactive in nature. It takes creativity to find the silver lining, to find the positive in the darkness, to transform a negative situation to a positive one, or to face and heal personal and social wounds.
Currence is an inner peace and stillness regardless of what happens around you. Maintaining currence in a difficult time can be quite the challenge.
In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, concentration camp survivor Viktor E Frankl speaks to our inalienable spiritual freedom. He speaks to the fact that no matter the situation, our choice of attitude, the choice of the state of our inner world, is a freedom that can never be taken from us. He says you always have the choice of “whether or not you (would) become a plaything of circumstance”.
Having a brain tumor that causes constant pain and that forces me to lay down most of my day has given me a lot of practice in the arena of currence.
Saying, “Why me? This isn’t fair!” doesn’t change the situation. It only changes my experience of it.
Instead I say, “The Universe is always working in my favor. I know there is a greater reason for everything.” I pray, “Please use me to serve the highest and greatest good.” This adjusts my focus from self pity and darkness to great purpose and hope.
Sometimes I do get in a negative state when I’m challenged even further than I already am. I guess there’s a part of me that believes there should be a limit to the amount of challenges and suffering a person can face. I’m learning that that is not the case. As much as I understand it theoretically, I still struggle sometimes with the fact that my level of suffering or comfort is not an indicator of Sacred’s (God/Higher Power/Universe) presence in my life. Instead, it indicates an opportunity to exercise my fortitude and capacity to choose the higher, more sacred perception and choice. My true power grows stronger with each sacred choice.
But I must give credit where credit is due. I would not and could not have come this place within without my connection with Sacred and its support and guidance. And I call in that support every day.
5) Call In Divine Assistance:
The divine force that supports you is far greater than the force pushing against you. The Higher Power is far more powerful than any worldly power.
Sacred will always respond when you call it forth. It won’t always be the response you expect or want, but it always responds in the way that best serves the highest and greatest good.
When you call in Sacred to bless and guide you, your actions and mindsets are anointed with Sacred’s energy. It’s a force multiplier in your efforts to create sacred solutions that serve the highest and greatest good.
6) Practice Gratitude:
Create the intention and practice to enter a grateful state of being throughout the day. When you almost drop that glass jar, but catch it just in time, say thank you. When you almost get in a car accident, say thank you that you didn’t. When things go smoothly, say thank you. Say thank you every time you eat and drink.
Frequently entering the state of gratitude will make you less likely to enter negative states when challenges arise.
Stick To The Facts:
When a challenge comes up just think or say exactly what happened. Don’t assign an adjective to it (annoying, rude, stupid, f*ed up)
Let’s say you accidentally spill coffee grounds all over the floor. Instead of thinking or saying “that’s so annoying,” just say, “I spilled coffee grounds on the floor.” And that’s it. This prevents the suffering causing cascade of reactivity and maintains your inner peace.
However, if the reaction beats you to it, and you find yourself in a reactive state, don’t judge yourself or stuff the feelings down with a coating of false positivity. That reaction has energy that must be released. Here is where you take back control of your inner state. You must express and release the feelings in a high quality way. I plan on creating a course on how to do just that, so stay tuned!
Pain is real. Suffering is a state of mind.
Our painful and negative emotions essentially emerge from fear and/or a fearful interpretation of the people and world around us. We see challenging people and situations as threats to our time, hearts, lives, livelihood, energy etc. Fear triggers the fight/flight/freeze response which tells your body to send blood and energy to your extremities. While this is extremely beneficial when you have to run from a tiger, it’s detrimental to deriving sacred solutions or entering sacred states of being (joy, peace, calm, understanding, compassion etc).
Reactions and actions taken from shadow states of being (anger, defensiveness, impatience, frustration etc) rarely lead to real solutions. To maintain control of our inner world, we must practice awareness, and make a conscious effort to create sacred solutions when “bad” things happen.
I’m fully aware it’s easier said than done! It requires practice and discipline every day many times a day.
All of this said, one of the most important things I want you to take away from this is that our emotions aren’t our enemies. Rather than shaming, hating, or combating them, we must honor them by leaning in and asking what they can teach us. This is the only way to transcend them. This requires great patience, self acceptance, and self compassion.
Remember, your entire life and everything that happens is to serve the evolution of your Soul and of the Divine consciousness. When we understand this our perspectives shift regarding our struggles. Our struggles are our opportunity to strengthen our inner power.
Your reactions create your reality. Negative reactions create a negative reality. High quality reactions create a high quality reality. The choice and responsibility is yours.
Dear Holy Sacred. Thank you for this incredible life. I know that sometimes I see things from a fearful state of mind. I invite you now to adjust my perceptions so that I may see things as You do, as my Soul self sees things. Thank you for strengthening my self compassion as well as my ability and tendency to enter sacred states of being when faced with challenges. I know that all challenges are to serve me. Thank you for helping me use these opportunities to align my human self even further with that of my Soul self. I aim to choose sacred solutions rather than detrimental responses. Thank you for giving me the wisdom, patience, and creativity to do so. Amen.
In Light & Love,