The 2 Forgotten Steps Between Reacting to Responding
The 4 Rs of Transformation, pt. 3
This is the third of a 3 part series:
First, we talked about why changing your reactions is so hard.
Then, I started a fight about why learning your personality isn’t going to help much.
So, to conclude this little series of reflections, how do we move from reacting out of protection to responding with connection?
Here are the 4 Rs of Transformation
First, we’re going to explore what’s beneath our reactions. There are things going on in your body that cause you to react. Much of that feels out of your control. And if you do nothing, it will continue to be out of your control.
A reaction is something you do without thinking. It’s a non-conscious choice to your environment - whether it’s something happening inside your body (internal), in the world around you (external) or between you and another person (relational).
These reactions literally keep you alive. Reactions can also destroy your health, your relationships, and your work.
You’re often unaware of the reason you react the way you do. That’s because your reactions live below your consciousness, under the ground. You’re not choosing your reactions.
To choose would be responding (but willpower, mindfulness, and education can’t get you directly there).
Many of your reactions will spring from how you were shaped in your early life by your relationships with your people (your attachment history). Most of your reactions made sense at some point in your life.
But your reactions aren’t working anymore. You need to shift to a different way. You need to learn to consciously respond, rather than automatically reacting.
Once you’ve noticed that you’re behaving in an automatic, reactive way, you can’t immediately jump to responding. There are some important steps in between to ensure that you’ll have the capacity to respond differently the next time a situation arises.
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If you reflect on your attachment history, you will see how it impacts your internal sense of other people, the world, yourself, and God. Knowing this can help you begin to have some compassion for yourself and recognize why just deciding to do something different doesn’t work.
As you explore the upstream of your behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, you can bring what’s hidden under the ground above the surface.
You can start to name the stories you’re living from and see how they’re impacting your moment-by-moment reactions. Once you know some of the hidden beginnings of the story you’re living in, you can do the work to move into a different story.
Sometimes we have to start at an even more basic level and reconnect to our bodies so we can even begin to reflect on our reactions.
Listen to a recent episode about reflecting in order to be kind to your attachment strategy and your nervous system.
Basically, in reflecting you are being a detective investigating your attachment history that shaped your view of yourself, of others, and God, examining the hows and whys of your semi-automatic reactions.
Once we’ve reflected and gained some insight into what’s behind our unwanted reaction, it’s time to do some heavy lifting.
This is where you do some work to close the gap between what’s possible in God’s good design and where you find yourself distorted by sin.
To do that, you’ve got to reorient yourself.
By practicing the story of Jesus, you can rewrite old stories. By increasing your capacity, finding new strategies or tools, and proactively working on your connection with God, with others, and with yourself, you can re-write your old stories.
Through re-orienting your mind, body, and soul, you’re more able to respond according to the way you want to be. The way God designed you to be. It’s not going to always go the way you hoped. You won’t always respond the way you intended to. But you use a process of trail and error, practice, and repetition. And slowly, you begin to see change. Greater resiliency. More freedom to choose a response that feels good to you and blesses the people in your world.
Doing this work of reflecting on our reactions and reorienting ourselves to the new story can, by God’s grace, help us to move into a place of responding to the world around us. Consciously choosing, rather than simply reacting.
By working through this transformational process, you get closer to a compelling vision of where you want to be. You notice a reaction, reflect on what’s going on, and re-orient yourself to a new way of being. Now you become more able to respond when the situation comes up again.
Embodied Faith is a reader- & listener-supported publication. Cut out the algorithms by becoming a free or paid subscriber.