Thought # 6
What is your response?
We all have “triggers” – occurrences, words, patterns – whatever the fuck it may be and based on these triggers we choose to respond a certain way. So, what is your response?
The list of ways to respond to a trigger is endless and how each one of us responds is unique.
I know for me – my response is feigned stoicism and self-destruction, usually taking the form of not eating, not talking and anything that could be classified as physical harm without actually physically "harming" my body.
But here is a secret about such responses – these are not responses but REACTIONS.
Getting to identify that you are reacting and not responding is the first step and trust me – it can take a while. Our brains or our emotions are generally biased towards us and so we would more likely than not tend to rationalize our reaction by some morality or belief we uphold. But the fact is “A is A”.
A reaction is a reaction and it is rooted in emotions, no matter what our mind would have us believe.
To say that it is possible to completely extricate the emotions from a response is a lie. We are human and by virtue of our humanity, our emotions are inextricably embedded in everything we do. That said, passion differs from composure in that passion is stormy and composure breezy. When we repeatedly react, we are simply acting on the most pronounced emotion we feel as a result of the trigger – be it anger, hurt, fear, confusion, etc.
I have a hard time setting boundaries and seeing myself as an individual with my own needs. Basically, I generally tend to suck at doing what is needed for self-care. A reason for this: I like seeing others around me happy and sometimes I lack the articulation of what it is that I need for self-care. Usually, it’s simply just time out for myself.
However, I also dislike discomfort caused to loved ones for whatever reason and I would like to do whatever my capacity allows to ease the discomfort of the other, even if it isn’t my burden to bear. Sometimes, fulfilling the emotional needs of another starts to become self-destructive, especially when paying attention to the other person results in rejection or putting aside my own self-care. Even if the need to maintain boundaries is voiced and those boundaries are not respected, rather than be firm, my brain tends to justify the transgression of boundaries as, “Oh, but in the larger scheme of things, this is small and realistically, would it hurt me to do whatever this individual is asking of me?” The fact is that sometimes it does hurt me.
I didn’t believe in the limitation of human capacity to deal with or grasp or put up with things that life hurls at us. However, it is only over time and some rather transformative and painful experiences that I have come to realize that human capacity is like an elastic band – untouched it can only take so much and when stretched it can also only take so much. However, between the band’s static and stretched state is an entire spectrum of unexplored capacity that life usually provides the opportunity to explore in the form of various incidents and experiences.
It is precisely in this interval that our true potential can be realized.
As life experiences stretch this capacity, there are really only two things that can happen:
The band is able to stretch enough, adapt to and accommodate the required new capacity, OR
The band snaps – because we are fallible and at some point we have a threshold beyond which we cannot cope. This is usually where trauma or some other sort of mental / emotional distress kicks in.
But there is a third more powerful thing which can happen and this only occurs when one is able to recognize triggers or recurrences in one's responses (or dare I say it, reactions).
For this to happen, introspection is critical as it helps you to understand your needs better. You can then adjust your reaction to stretch itself to be a response. Sometimes, this may mean recognizing that you are limited and need some extra string to stretch more – this may take the form of external support (and can be really encouraging and transformative).
The key is to go from a state of REACTION to RESPONSE and this happens only when you are open to recognizing your reaction as a REACTION!!
It’s a journey and one that can be annoying, slow and painful. But at the end of it, you’d be grateful for it.
For now, I’m just another hiker trudging through.