Viktor Frankl so beautifully said, “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”~Viktor E. Frankl
I have been a very passionate and reactive person, Over the years of working on myself, I feel life has improved considerably for me. Yet there are times when I feel disturbed and also am clamored by the question, “Why does this happen to me ?”. There is a lot of inner work that is still to be done. Recently when I watched the movie, Inside out, many things became alive in me, and I just loved the portrayal of emotions in the movie. In this blog I am sharing somethings that I have learnt over time.
Whenever there is a stimulus or a trigger in our life, we tend to react. In this reaction there is no thought, in fact the reaction happens first and then the thoughts follow. It could be delay in a project, or a statement made by somebody or something that we read about. This is a common phenomena and keeps happening with us until we start questioning the pattern. These patterns create our life story and the reactions become a part of our personality, we also start believing that we are a certain ‘type’. We hold judgements about self based on our reactions and sometimes end up holding, rage, guilt and shame all our lives, unable to forgive ourselves.
To recognize our patterns and how they are governing our life is a must to be able to break them. For this we must be aware of our triggers and how they impact us. This observance is an important skill to develop in order to live a desired life, else our life goes on as an reaction to situations that we keep encountering. Our life is over before we even realize that, we did have a choice of thoughtful response.
Developing this response skill is a matter of practicing observance, and also being aware that our reactions are coming from the way our Brain is wired or programmed. Our brain carry’s our story from the mother’s womb and as our brain develops the different stages of its growth determine our traits depending on the situations that we encounter in our developmental stages. It is difficult to compartmentalize the brain as everything is connected to everything else and it is a complex circuitry that Neuro scientists are still researching. But for ease of understanding there is a simple classification that can be shared. The reptilian brain is the one that develops first, it takes care of our heart rate, breathing, balance, body temperature and other involuntary functions of the body. The mid brain or the limbic brain stores pleasant and unpleasant life experiences and memory of reactions for protection/ self preservation. This part of brain has an almond shaped gland called Amygdala, which acts as a watchman and watches out for potential threats or triggers, which could be real threats or could be illusions created by old memories. However as soon as the amygdala encounters any potential threat it engages a reaction based on previously stored mechanisms of protection and creates a similar experience of familiarity with situation. This is almost like, “You have been through this before, you know this is the best way to go about it, there is no other way and no choice, act now”. Thus causing us to get stuck in a pattern of reactive behaviors. The third and the most evolved part of the brain is the Neocortex, which is the thinking brain, it has helped us develop language, reasoning, consciousness and holds infinite possibilities of learning.
When we wish to live from choice and liberation, it is important for us to engage our Neocortex. The moment Neocortex is engaged, we have a choice, before engaging Neocortex, an action could be a completely thoughtless reaction, which causes much blame, shame and guilt. In order to engage our Neocortex, we must be aware of our triggers and what is it that causes emotional imbalance in us? Being in observance allows us to see our selves and our interactions in a very detached manner, thus creating a non judgmental space, where everything/ everyone is a subject. Practicing mindfulness and meditative practices enhances our ability to be in observance of self and surrounding without reacting. A mindful response can then be chosen. However this requires practice of holding back and engaging the Neocortex. Once you feel a trigger, become aware of what is happening to you and ask yourself,”What is the meaning that I am giving to this situation?” “Is the meaning that I am giving to it empowering me to make a choice or is a mere pattern that I might be following?” When we ask questions from higher consciousness, we engage the Neocortex and the Amygdala is bypassed, thus bypassing any old reaction stored in our Limbic brain. Practicing observance and questioning can help us detach from the reactions that hold us slaves in our own lives.
Response consciousness is not a summit to be reached but a daily practice, without which, the illusion of life and what it should be, will continue. Staying with your breath and observing in a detached manner, allows us to see beyond our old beliefs. Action which emerges from a thoughtful inner deliberation from your higher brain creates the full circle of awareness and alignment that helps in deeper connect.