‘The one thing you can control is your reaction’ is such a powerful message. Often, in the past, I have thought it is incredible difficult to control my reaction, particularly in situations which result in strong emotions. However, I have recently been working on this as a way of helping to lower my stress levels.
The first thing I found really interesting was looking at responsibility. I actually drew a circle for me and what I was responsible for – my thoughts, emotions, feelings, behaviour, actions, words and reactions. I then drew a circle around my circle – an outer circle – and listed what I wasn’t responsible for – other people’s thoughts, emotions, feelings, behaviour, actions, words and reactions. It really helped me to focus on what I have control over and to let go of what I wasn’t responsible for. This helped me to not only realise that I am not responsible for what other people do, say or think but it also helped me acknowledge that what other people may or may not think or say about me is out of my control. Both of these concepts brought a sense of letting go, freedom and lightness.
It’s also interesting to consider the fact that sometimes other people react to things in unexpected ways because everyone has had their own life experiences, which give different perspectives than our own. The quote by Yehuda Berg, that tells us ‘hurt people, hurt people’ helps to illustrate this, as sometimes people say or do something to you, which is nothing to do with you, but it is a result of something else that is happening in their life. This doesn’t mean we have to accept their behaviour, but it does mean that we don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Secondly, I have been trying really hard to be more mindful when faced with a difficult person or situation. At the point when normally I would start to feel very stressed or annoyed (or whatever the emotion is), I try to pause momentarily and remind myself I have a choice how to react. We cannot control the person or the situation so we have to decide how we want to respond. The first few times I tried this, it blew my mind because I realised it is completely true – we can control our reactions! It also allowed me to see how being in control of our reaction helped me to stand in my power when sometimes it is easier to feel powerless or helpless with a difficult situation or person.
Sometimes, this is easier said than done but even if I have initially reacted without pausing, I still remind myself I have a choice from then on. It may be if someone has annoyed me and I react with annoyance, I can choose to acknowledge how I feel and then let it go so that my reaction does not cause upset throughout my day. This also allows me to practise kindness with myself and stops me berating myself for not reacting in a mindful way from the beginning.
I try to remind myself that often small niggles or minor things are not worth the hassle of getting stressed over as the one person who is guaranteed to feel worse is me, with stress hormones flooding my body. It links with the idea that when we are angry with someone and we hold on to resentments – we are actually poisoning our body with anger and the other person often knows nothing about our anger. Therefore, it is a huge wasted drain on our energy and we are actually giving away our power. I have found there is definitely a fine balance between standing up for ourselves (assertively without being unkind) and letting things go. If it is an occasion when we need to stand up for ourselves, taking the mindful pause before responding helps us to consider the best response, which allows us to do it from a place of power instead of getting caught up in the emotions of the situation.
It is important that however we choose to react, this is not about pushing down or ignoring emotions and feelings. We can still acknowledge how we are feeling to ourselves and choose to let go of those feelings to help us move forward.
Ultimately, this all connects with my mission to choose peace and sometimes this involves not over-reacting to minor things but at other times it means not giving away your peace because of someone else’s behaviour or actions. We always have a choice.
This is most definitely a work in progress but the more I have delved into it and practised it, the more I am able to be mindful in the moment and have more choice over my reaction.
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