React or Respond – Your Option

Posted by on Nov 29, 2011 in Counselling Blog, counselling Victoria BC | 0 comments


React or Respond – What do you want to be?

By Gregg Turner PhD – November 28, 2011

How do you deal with challenging situations?   How do you cope with things that go on in your life that you may not “like”?  Do you react to people and situations that occur, especially when you feel, think, hear, and see them differently than others? 

These are some good reflective questions here.  Let us start with the difference between “reacting” and “responding”.  “Reacting” is like a pure reflex to a situation, sometimes it serves us, but most of the time it does not.  It is a conditioned reaction based on your beliefs, judgments, interpretations, and sometimes just stuff we make up.  Done without thought and usually without any awareness or control.  So what is the alternative?  It is to Respond!  Responding has a thoughtfulness to it that reacting does not.  Something that puts you in control.  The word “response” can be looked at as “response able”.  Able to respond, instead of just reacting all over the place.  You will see and notice people “reacting” in most places you go.

The awareness that there is a difference, gives you a key to be able to “respond” as you choose.  As you choose!  A response is like a decision to go in a certain direction, so to speak.  Decisions about how and where you want to “respond”, gives you power and freedom over your situations.

In life things occur that we do not always understand.  Whether it is a situation or a person.  Often those mis-understandings are occurring because others involved are all “reacting”.  As you make a decision to “respond” you will feel and be more content, calm and in control of you. 

I can remember “reacting” to other drivers on the highway, who had driving styles that were different than mine.  Maybe they were really slow, or were not using their turn signals or they were cutting people off.  I use to “react” by getting ticked off at them, sometimes honking and most times talking to myself and getting frustrated or even mad at them.  One day I realized that I was “reacting” and decided to take a deep breath and relax my muscular tension which I had created.  That started the process of moving to “responding” in that circumstance.  It w

I look at things from a detached perspective (like observing myself from a distance).  I realized that it was only my perspective, my interpertations of how it “should” be.  As I breathed and relaxed I provided more blood flow to the brain, therefore started making my own “decision”.  Deciding how I wanted to “respond” to the situation.  Before that I wasn’t really taking control of my circumstances. Afterwards, I had less stress and less tension. I was happier; I was back in control of me; I was calmer, and as I responded  I would think a safer and more “responsible” “interactor” in life. 

Interesting to note that the word “responsible” or “response able” have nothing to do with “a knee jerk reaction” and everything to do with “responding”.  

Think, feel or just imagine how you go through your day.  As you start to pay attention to situations in your life and how you “react” or “respond”, you start to gain more insights about you.  Providing yourself with ways to “respond” in ways that will serve you, others and your future.

The more often we create this mental habit, the better it gets.  And the better it gets the better it gets!  If you know what I mean.

So by “paying attention”, noticing your “triggers of reaction”, you can start to understand “it”, see it for what “it” is, hear and feel differently about “it” and start to change “it”.  It can be as simple as starting with a deep breath.

You will know if you are “reacting” because it will show up in your body and mind with being tense, uncomfortable, angry, sad, or something along those lines.  Taking a deep breath starts the process of letting it go.  Remembering how you “want” to feel and “respond” or what is the best case, helps to give you a direction to follow.

This can apply to all areas of your life!  Why not think about it, explore it, breath with it and see, notice and experience how the “situations” change because you are responding. 


I hope this helps you to respond to the challenges that life gives you.  All the best,

Gregg Turner

Victoria based Counsellor.

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