Vedantic Wednesday: Learning to Respond

In today’s world whenever we hear philosophers, they seem archaic! They constantly talk about response and reaction and the difference between them. According to them these two are world apart. And to us this appear as mere play of words.Cat

Very often we find ourselves reacting. The reason why we react and not respond is because something inside us is waiting for a trigger to set off. If you consider your reactions in the recent past, you will realise you have never consciously reacted to a situation. It has always been involuntary. Having doubts? Ok, see if you can consciously work yourself to feel anger. See if you can consciously look at someone in front of you and simply yell. Or think of an earlier situation where you have reacted – and try to feel the same surge of adrenalin. You will find that you can’t.

We never consciously react to a situation. Situations trigger a suppressed feeling (disappointment/frustration etc) that we already hold within ourselves. Reactions are not a conscious set of actions. They are an involuntary, subconscious activity germinating from an earlier experience or a cause. It is only the trigger that is in the present – the cause is in the past. And very often there is seldom any connect between the earlier cause and the present trigger.

What happens when we react? The person who is at the receiving end, views this as an incoherent and unwarranted action from your side. The receiver is surprised and very often your behaviour triggers another reaction in them. As this relay of reactions continues you find yourself getting caught in the quagmire of chaotic and meaningless exchanges. At the end of the duel both parties retire hurt and worn-out. When they sit down alone (assuming they do), they most often realize that they are unable to find any meaning or reason for the bad experience. But the ego in us does not allow us to accept and quickly seek repair. It wants to prove a point. It waits to establish how it is right. Since the egos are actually at play, we simply become vehicles.

Many times in life we face circumstances which bring down our energy levels. This is because of unnecessary and insignificant conversations where the intellect switches itself off. To be able to recover from them and avoid them, we need to be able to avoid reactionary behaviours. The easiest way to do this is to create a simple rule. A rule that will permit you to respond to any situation, that you see as disturbing or unwarranted only after a short duration from receiving the trigger.

That means when your ward walks up with an unreasonable demand, your spouse wants to watch a serial when you are hooked onto a gripping match, when your colleague informs you that the deliverable is yet to be finished, when you find the conductor does not have necessary change, when your maid servant asks for sudden leave, when your friend fails to live upto your expectation or any such situation that is not as per your plan– you will simply postpone any action from your end for a short duration.

You will find that every time you do this; you are switching from the mode of an involuntary reaction to the possible mode of planned response. It is this switch that enables the intellect to guide you, thereby making your decisions and actions better and effective.

Try it! You may actually be at peace with yourself a lot more. And also the world will be at more peace with you!


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