The Subtle Power of Non-reactivity!

My friends call me a drama queen. That’s because I react strongly to things I object to. While I do believe that there is no fun without a bit of drama in life, but taking things too far in terms of reacting to each and every situation I’m faced with, is a bit too much. There are many instances when I reacted when I shouldn’t and regretted later.

I used to spend a lot of time looking at political debates and innumerable tweets on the trending topics. There’s always one every day, especially since we've all been locked up in the lockdown.

I used to get so upset by those events that, those feelings of irritability and frustration started spilling over into other areas of my life.

Hubby noticed that and pointed out. What followed was a set of negative reactions from me that were absolutely unnecessary.

Of course I regretted what I said and apologized. But it was too late and the damage was done.

This is just a simple example of habitual reactivity. And I know you have been through it at some point in your life.

Non-reactivity means not reacting in the heat of the moment but giving a measured response when we’re calm. It is when we are not fighting the reality of what’s happening with us, but accepting whatever that we feel so that we become less reactive. The lesser reactive we are, the closer we will inch towards inner peace.

It doesn't mean that you stop reacting to things and allow everything to happen, that’s not the goal. The goal is to be aware of and in control of your reactions.

Steven Covey used the term “Response-able” or “able to control our responses” in his book ‘The 7 habits’ He says we have the ability to consciously choose how we respond to any situation. In this book, he cites the following quote -

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Vicktor Frankl

In order to be aware and in control of the responses we need to tap into this gap, this space so that we can become lesser reactive and give a better-measured response.

So, what do you do within this gap?

1. Check inwards

Check in to the kind of thoughts you’re having. Note every single thought that comes to you no matter how silly or meaningless it is.

Now notice what’s happening to you physically. Is there tightness in the throat, are you breathing shallow, clenching your jaw or is there a nerve throbbing in your head? What is happening to your physical body? Write them down as well.

Then notice your emotions and write them down too. You can say you are feeling - irritated, angry, anxious…etc

The point of the exercise is to make you aware of your thoughts & feelings and not to evaluate or judge them.

Once you note them, now you

2. Pause & Question

Before you give in the urge to react, ask yourself questions such as -

  • What is the best way to react to this?

  • What will happen if I don’t react to this?

  • What could be the outcome of my reaction?

  • Why am I feeling like this?

The idea is that you question your thoughts and feelings, so the questions don't really matter.

When you pause and question, you are typically delaying your reaction. By the time you answer those questions, you will be at a place where you have no desire to react. So the final step is to

3. Accept & Surrender

Did you know it is the ego that makes us react? Our ego believes that our strength is in resistance and surrendering is a weakness. However according to Eckhart Tolle -

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to, rather than opposing the flow of life.

Especially since our goal is non-reactivity.

Surrendering is our inner acceptance of our reality. It is often confused with giving up. But it is not the same. To surrender is to accept the situation as it is, out of choice. It is a choice without any judgments or reservations.

So, accepting our emotions, and the reality of the present moment, instead of resisting them, will help us defeat our ego. However in any case if you can't surrender, then accept your non-surrender. Accept that you are unable to accept it. It will help you deal better with it.

Good luck! :)


Aparna is a behavioural coach with a passion to support people who want to help themselves. She is an avid YouTube and publishes weekly videos. For more information and to reach out to her click here