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Response vs Reaction

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Sometimes it's easy to start to think that you are in therapy to help you cope with the people in your life that should really be in therapy. One of the most difficult things for people to come to terms with is that you can very rarely change others. You certainly can't change them remotely from a therapy session for which they are not present. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Viktor Frankl As justified as you may feel in a relationship, you can't always count on being able to change the other person, and it may not be your place to. What you can do is change how you respond to that person. I use the word 'respond' intentionally. A response is measured; balanced by both the unconscious and conscious parts of your brain and will take into consideration the wellbeing of yourself and the other person. It will align with your core values. A reaction, on the other hand, is driven entirely by the unconscious mind. It is a survival instinct based on the moment. It doesn't draw on reason and it has no concept of its' long term effect on you or those around you. A response and a reaction may look the same sometimes, but they will always feel different from one another. While reactions can elicit feelings of being out of control and lead to guilt and regret, a response will leave you feeling more empowered and often take the wind out of a situation which is otherwise fuelled by both sides trying to win a reactionary war. It can be frustrating for both of you when the other party is reacting and you're responding but ultimately you are in control of only half of the exchanges. Yours. When you respond more often than you react, that feeling of empowerment will most likely lead to the other person noticing a difference in you and they may begin to change accordingly.


About the author Greg James is a counsellor with a desire to see people set free from the patterns of the past. Trained integratively, Greg is able to tailor his approach to the individual needs of clients and strongly believes that our lived experience has a profound effect on our present-day living. He works out of offices in Devizes & Chippenham as well as online.

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