Staying trapped in the slavery of reaction

Most of our automatic reactions to things are dead wrong. 

Our first thoughts are usually childish reactions. Ancient habitual responses that take us on ride along the superhighway of emotional reactivity. And if we don’t pause and deepen our attention and intention, we’ll continue to the live out the same patterns. 

Becker’s book on the birth and death of meaning once made the case that what we call the mind is merely the style of reaction of an organism to its environment. 

Best definition of all time. Proving, that true freedom comes from the ability to be in control of what we do with our thoughts, feelings and reactions. Response flexibility, to use a term from the psychotherapy lexicon. It’s the ability to pause before we act, and the mindfulness to use that gap to create a better outcome. 

But it’s harder than it sounds. Attention and intention require real inner work. 

One way to begin improving response flexibility is to get very good at identifying where we’re being too reactive. For example, we consider some of the moments and situations that set off a chain reaction of anxiety for us. 

Perhaps it’s when our spouse tries to micromanage our lives and we instantly shrink into the teenage version of ourselves. 

Perhaps it’s when an especially negative story in the news triggers the cynical part of our personality that we’re not proud of expressing. 

Perhaps it’s when our boss gives us critical feedback that assaults our sense of competence and makes us feel like a useless office ornament. 

No situation is right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, it just is. And our job as emotionally healthy individuals is to not stay trapped in the slavery of reaction. 

To react, after all, is to use these situations as ammunition against ourselves. 

Instead, we take a moment to notice, name and hopefully press the pause button on our usual pinball reactions to life. It’s the healthiest first step of all. 

Simply deepen attention and intention, and trust that the rest will follow. 


Are you sabotaging yourself by reacting in ways that do not serve your true interests?

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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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