The Myth of Reaction Vs Response
Moving to Wholeness
“Don’t react, respond.”
Most of us would have heard this. And most of us would have made a mental note, to make a conscious choice whenever we are faced with a difficult situation in the future. But how can we assess whether our behaviour is a reaction or a response?
The common answer to that is “avoid impulsive behaviour”. Angry outburst. Binge eating. A response is usually associated with thoughtful behaviour. Rather than react on the spur of the moment, a response is a thoughtful action.
I understand impulsive behaviour is not beneficial to us. But is thoughtful behaviour helpful?
As it is, we are thinking all the time. As soon as we wake up, our mental chatter starts. Most of us suffer from over-thinking. We often analyse things to death.
Some of my problems in life happened because I thought too much.
I thoughtfully made a wrong career choice, based on what others were doing and what would give me financial security in the future.
I thoughtfully remained in unhealthy relationships, because I was scared of the consequences of expressing my anger and being labelled as impulsive.
I thoughtfully continued in depleting life situations, for the benefit it was giving me, at the cost of my dignity.
If impulsive behaviour has been harmful for me, thoughtful behaviour has not been helpful either. But then what other choice do we have? Either our actions are ruled by our feelings (impulses) or by our logic (thoughts).
“Is there an action that is not ruled by impulses or thoughts?” you ask.
Yes, there is.
It is an action that stems from Being.
What is Being?
It is the experience of life. When we simply are, without wanting to become something or want something, we exist as Life itself. Not a person with ideas about themself. Not a person riddled with urges for self-gratification. Just present. Simply alive. Each moment.
That living presence does not act out of impulse. Neither does it make strategic choices for future benefits. It acts spontaneously through an intuitive knowing. It seeks no validation for its actions. Just as we do not need any validation for being alive. We simply know that we are.
Before you start imagining this to be esoteric wisdom, let me give you a practical example of Being functioning in our daily life. We all have a body that functions intelligently. Our nervous system, blood circulation, digestion or excretion. If we pay close attention to the body, it tells us what is good for us — food, routine, sleep — it has an intuitive intelligence. When it is unwell or injured, it has the capacity to heal itself.
Where did this intelligence come from? Did it require thinking on our part? Did we require to do anything to get it? It is simply there. One could say it’s natural. Just like the intelligence ingrained in every aspect of nature. The earth, water, fire, air; all have a natural function.
Similarly we have the capacity to act naturally. But we have lost touch with this capacity, due to our preoccupation with impulses and thinking. We no longer know what is natural, spontaneous and intuitive.
One of the reasons we have lost touch with our natural self is because we are constantly seeking validation from others. We want something. We are anxious about not getting it. When our awareness is clouded by greed and fear, we lose touch with our naturalness.
The entire Universe functions through natural intelligence. We are an integral part of the Universe. But when we complicate our life with thoughts, impulses and judgments we become a separate fragment of the Whole.
What we are truly seeking is to regain our Wholeness. Our freedom. Of feeling complete, just as we are. Without the need to become or achieve anything. If becoming or achieving happens, it is a by-product of our natural expression, not a goal that we are pursuing to complete us.
Perhaps you will now ask…
“Wouldn’t an action emerging from Being be considered a response? How does one know that one is acting from Being?”
The action of Being is neither a reaction or a response. These are labels given by language to differentiate between an impulsive and thoughtful action. There is an assumption that a thoughtful action is better than an impulsive action. It may be for people who are too impulsive. It may not be for people who already think too much.
When the Whole acts it does not think “is this a reaction or a response?”. It simply does what it has to do. Like breathing. It is neither a reaction or response. It simply is.
The authority for its action lies within its Being. It seeks no validation.
“How does one get access to the intuitive wisdom of Being?”
Start by living a life based on your own choices, irrespective of whether they are impulsive or thoughtful. Drop this over-bearing psychological need for external validation. Learn to be alone, even if it is scary. Face the fear of isolation.
When we are constantly dependent on others, we cannot find our natural voice. What we say, feel and think is what we are programmed to say, feel and think. Only when we develop the ability to be by ourself, risk listening to our inner self, there is a possibility of reclaiming our natural intelligence.
Language disconnects us from wisdom. Words like reaction and response confuse us. So do words like Wholeness, Being, intuition and spontaneity.
The way to reach our true self lies in a mind free from language. Silent. Still. Empty.
When we are quiet, we become Whole. The language of Wholeness is Silence. When Silence speaks it is neither a reaction or a response.
It is a movement of the Whole, within itself.