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Reactions vs. Interactions: Do You Still Offer Old-Fashioned, Complicated Reactions?

by Gip Plaster on May 13th, 2011

My actions are simpler every day, and each simple action is moving me closer to the life of my dreams. But my reactions are stuck in another time. Do your reactions match your simple, deliberate life?

My reactions are less than deliberate, and they often reveal just how shallow my facade of goodness really is. Do you have the same problem?

I attend a small book group every other Wednesday night that studies so-called New Spirituality. Technically, we study the Conversations with God book series by Neale Donald Walsch, but we actually study lots of writings and belief systems.

I don’t participate in the group because I want to study these writings. All of them are needlessly complex systems that could be better be expressed in this simple sentence: God is good and only good, and everything is God. I’m there because the group forces me to think about my spirituality, my lifestyles and the journey on which I take myself.

Having A Bad Reaction

This Wednesday, someone brought up the topic of reactions, and I offered this insight into myself at which I didn’t know I had arrived: I do everything else the new way — the simple, spiritually aware, uplifting way — but I still do reactions the old-fashioned, complicated way.

Do you understand what I mean?

When someone bumps my chair on a restaurant patio, I get a bit annoyed. When they bump it a second time, I get mad. But how does getting mad make me more comfortable in my chair?

When a band that I’ve waited to see is supposed to go on at 7 p.m. and hasn’t even done their sound check as the top of the hour approaches, I get perturbed. When they haven’t gone on 15 minutes later, I leave. But where do I have that’s better to go on short notice?

When I tell an interesting story in an interesting way to a group of people and one of them doesn’t understand the point, I get irritated with having to retell the story, knowing it won’t have the same impact if I explain it in greater detail. But why should I deprive a hard-of-hearing or inattentive person of as much of the story as I can provide?

When a grocery store doesn’t have the specific item I want, I get frustrated. But can’t I manage to survive on just about any other item in the store?

When the plan for tomorrow doesn’t include a good enough balance of fun attractions and useful work, I begin to think my whole life is out of balance, not just that one day. But since I’ve been to all the nearby museums and have already worked hard several days this week, why should I be concerned?

Interaction, Not Reaction

The problem, I think, is that I still react. Period. It isn’t that I react badly or that I react in ways that don’t serve me well. It’s that I’m still reacting rather than interacting.

Useful interactions between people and situations are a vital part of living a simple, deliberate life. Reactions, on the other hand, are authoritarian response to unpleasantness, like the way our bodies react to bacteria or very hot water.

Interactions are give-and-take conversational and emotional games of toss with other equal life forms. They’re best when no regard is given to whether the other person is right or wrong. I’m not in the business of teaching lessons or further damaging other people in any way.

I’m in the business of offering positive words, services and actions to the entire universe.

What business are you in?

My reactions often betray me, but as I remove the obstacles of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical clutter from my life, I’m freer to interact as an equal with everyone and every situation.

There’s no reason to feel superior to anyone else because we all sprang from the same source, and there’s no reason to feel inferior because a part of my life is less than ideal.

Interaction among equals in every situation is the goal, I think. Any reactions?

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15 Comments
  1. Robert Wall permalink

    Interaction among equals is the goal, yes – but I think reactions are a permanent part of who we are.

    I think the thing that differentiates people is more whether they follow their reaction to its logical conclusion, or notice it, think about it, and then let it drop.

    I don’t think eliminating reactions is possible – but it should be possible to control the amount of influence they have on you.

    Just my $0.02. šŸ˜€
    Robert Wall recently posted Is Daily Grocery Shopping Frugal Foodie Friday

    • Noticing and adjusting seems to be an important part of the process. I always notice; I don’t always adjust.
      Gip

  2. Mary permalink

    I don’t think you got my other post on the living situation but I hope you get this one. I know how hard what you just said is for you to actually put into action. What I want to say is you are so right and I wish everyone could understand that concept. I also react but have learned that the person that bumped my chair has as much right to walk behind me as I have a right to push my chair out into the aisle to be more comfortable. Long sentence, my writing skills have suffered in the last few years. We have to learn to put ourselves in other peoples moccasins as the indians used to say. God put us all here for a purpose and that should be what we put our energy into. It is a waste of His time to get upset about things we cannot and need not change.

    • I think that’s a good point: Our energy deserves to be directed at our true purpose, not all of these distractions.
      Gip

  3. Beverly McCullough permalink

    I have learned in MY life I have to pick my battles or else my energy is drained. I don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t worry about the things I don’t have control over and I TRY to have great acceptance of life as it is today. I TRY to remember that I am where I am SUPPOSED to be right here, right now and DOING what I am meant to be doing and I TRY to feel ok with it all as much as I can. I don’t always succeed and sometimes I really have to work at it consciously, sometimes minute by minute. The important thing is I am AWARE now. I am awakened to my desire to live THIS life, MY life deliberately and not reactionally. I am TRYING daily to become/live/think/feel/grow/learn/ all that I can be/ is meant to be/planned to be/learned to be/am. And to try to think every minute these thoughts pertain to ME AND ME ALONE! I cannot/ will not try to project my ideals on others. They have to live their own journeys and learn at their own pace, not mine. Not everyone is on the same rung of the ladder so to speak! I try.

    • Awareness seems to be the key to most of life’s issues. I’m glad you’re reading. I say something interesting every now and then.
      Gip

  4. Hey Gip! The very fact that you realize that your reacting instead of interacting puts you ahead of 90% of the population. How many people even stop to consider their knee-jerk reactions to situations or other people?

    I’ve noticed that I react (rather than interact) more often when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed. If too many things are being asked of me, my patience shortens and I find myself getting irritated by, say, the person cutting me off at the grocery store checkout line. And exclaiming, “Excuse me, but I was next!”

    If I’m emotionally where I *like* to be, I would instead think hmm, maybe this person has a medical problem that makes standing in line or leaving the house difficult. Or, maybe this person has a family member in the hospital that he is trying to hurry up and get back to, etc.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I’m reacting rather than interacting I’m lacking empathy. Since this is a value I hold in high regard, I work hard to show empathy. Simplifying my life helps me do this more consistently.
    Jenny @ exconsumer recently posted Friday Favorites!

    • Waking up and realizing how things really is most of the battle won, I think. You’re right. Awareness is the greatest tool toward achieving any kind of change.

      I think stress does play a role. I can let many more things slide on by when life is generally going well. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Gip

  5. Deborah permalink

    Gip, I can so relate to this post. However it shows that you are becoming more mindful about the way you do react (whether you act out of the thoughts you have or not). It is impossible to become this aware of what is going on and how futile all this reacting is without it diminishing your reactivity over time.

    Have you ever checked out Infinite Smile.org? There are some wonderful podcasts on there about this subject. I’m sure you’d enjoy them. (I’m not connected with Infinite Smile in any way, except that the teachings of Michael McAllister have helped me enormously.

    • I’ll check that out. Thanks for commenting, Deborah. I’m glad to have you here.

      I hope my reactivity is diminishing. That’s the goal. And I do think I’m getting better.
      Gip

  6. deb - lifebeyondstuff permalink

    Interesting and original post Gip.

    I’d like to comment on the first part of your post, i.e. your summation of God. ‘God is good’ isn’t a particularly helpful statement for me because what does it really mean? It’s very subjective – and it must always come from ones own understanding of ‘good’. If a person is a very disturbed person their idea of ‘good’ isn’t probably going to be that great. This is why we study and read and discuss, so that we can deepen our understanding of ourself, from which our understanding of God comes.

    I know you say you go to these evenings to deepen your understanding of yourself but in doing that doesn’t it also develop your understanding of God beyond that He is good and he is everything? For me that statement is like looking at a picture blown up to huge proportions so that I can accept what it is but it means very little. I need to zoom out and view it so that some of the details are clear and recognisable.

    I’m a little surprised that people are still studying NDW. After his first couple of books I found that he just kept repeating himself.

    Ciao

    • The study group can be frustrating because I’ve simplified my view of God to a point that’s beyond the understanding of some of the people in it, and I have to simply let many points pass. It makes me think, though.

      You’re mostly right about Walsch. Everything he has to say is in the the first three books. The others are simply intended to make him money. That’s largely why our group has expanded to other writers.

      Technically, I suppose, God is neither good nor bad and simply is. But I’m not willing to accept that. I really believe there are only good influences in the world. When we become distant from the good, things that look bad start to happen.

      Gip

  7. When I am angry with myself over something I am or am not doing I have less patience with other people.

    • Me too. When I’m angry with myself and when I’m feeling physically sick are when my reactions are worst.
      Gip

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