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Respond vs React

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Viktor E. Frankl


Is driven by amygdala = flight/fight/freeze, high alert

⭐ immediate & emotional

⭐ self-focused

⭐ about controlling the situation/others

⭐ our emotions hijack the outcome

⭐ short-term outlook


Is driven by pre-frontal cortex lobe = awareness, critical thinking

⭐ evaluates the situation and its context

⭐ considers our/others’ values & primary objectives

⭐ maintains self-control

⭐ able to influence the outcome

⭐ long-term view

The stories we tell ourselves are often more fantastical than the reality. We catastrophise, make presumptions, personalise a situation or jump to conclusions based on our own internal monologue.

If we’ve got a particularly loud inner critic then we may presume others are judging us as negatively as we judge ourselves. Or we may be hyper-critical of others, always presuming the worst in relationship, work or social situations.

Our past experiences matter. Memories of feeling not good enough, powerless, judged or excluded can trigger overly emotional reactions. Our feelings drive our behaviour.

This is just as true for us as it is for others. It’s so important to remember this and to try our best to respond to another’s feelings rather than react to their behaviour. This is relevant whether it’s our child, our spouse, our own parents or a friend.

Reactions are quick and can be driven by emotion. Responding requires us to be more introspective and make decisions based on facts rather than feelings. Responding creates a more healthy and connected experience.

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.

I've got a free worksheet available to help you process situations in which you might react vs respond along with helpful tips to better regulate your reactions. Link is in my bio!

References: Kabat-Zinn (1990)

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