The cost of reaction Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
We have all experienced having done or said something in reaction only to feel remorse or regret later on. Although have we fully considered the cost of reaction to our body, relationships, and general sense of well being?
Reacting to life is about choosing to continually express emotions such as anger, frustration, resentment, sadness, rage, disappointment, guilt or shame.
Consider that one reaction can cost a person their job, their relationship, or even their children. Some people have caused themselves major physical injury, even death, from staying in reaction to something. There are others who, due to one childhood incident for example, are still reacting to it 50-60 years later.
Being in reaction can run our bodies down; we lose vitality and often then rely on stimulants like caffeine and sugar to keep us going. There are many who are constantly stressed at work, however when our nervous system is stimulated this much (in constant fight or flight mode) to keep us going, what toll does this have on our bodies long-term?
A person may have grown up poor and due to an unresolved hurt about this choose to drive themselves all of their working life to ensure they have enough money ‘to survive’. Without resolving the hurt this way of working becomes laced by a desperation to financially achieve – but what of the cost to this person’s relationships and quality of life?
What if for some the choice to marry another or even have children has come from reaction? If a woman feels it is true for her not to have children but reacts to the societal expectation that all women should want children, what influence could this play on her final decision?
Just to qualify: reacting is actually a normal and healthy part of life, for if we stopped reacting altogether it would be a sign that we have stopped growing and learning. However, this article focuses on staying inreaction, which is unhealthy and unnecessary. This is holding on to an issue rather than choosing to address it and let it go.
Hence self-responsibility is key, for once we recognise we are reacting it is about taking the necessary steps to pull ourselves out of it and address what is going on for us. For tips on how to deal with reactions see To respond or react, that is the question.
Whilst sometimes we may believe that our reaction is justified, the toll for staying in reaction ultimately affects our own quality of life. Hence even when we choose to seek retribution for ‘what was done to me’, this never truly resolves our own reaction but in fact buries it deeper. Satisfaction, relief or even pleasure experienced from reacting back is by far a poor substitute to the deep contentment and settlement felt from truly resolving an issue.
The purpose of this article is not to criticise our often reactive way of living, but to appreciate that we deserve to live a much deeper quality of life than one of frequent reaction.
Given reactions can cost us so much, is it really worth not dealing with our issues? Perhaps we ought to seek support for our dilemmas well before they turn into monumental issues that can wreak havoc on our lives?
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.