Taking it Personally – Reaction versus Response

Recently I fell into a whole selfcreated story around my worth and my competence in relation to my work as a nurse. This happened because I assumed something and reacted.

What happened was that one of the patients that a colleague and I were responsible for was allocated to someone in a different team. My colleague was still involved with this patient but I had been removed. I had returned from days off to find out in a roundabout way the patient was now on the other team’s list, and that my colleague and the other team nurse would be working with her. It all felt a bit ‘hush hush.’

I immediately went into a reaction. But I didn’t share this or ask any questions to find out the reason. I doubted myself instead. How many of us do this to ourselves?

“What have I done wrong?”

“Why doesn’t the patient want me?”

“Everybody obviously knows about this, how embarrassing.”

I shrank and made myself small. This then began to be reflected back to me rather quickly as I was so affected that I did a couple of things very awkwardly. I had taken on ‘wrong,’ ‘not worthy of being a nurse’ and ‘shame of being singled out’ – personas which were definitely NOT me.

I still did not ask what happened or try to resolve the situation straight away, but allowed the feelings of unworthiness to fester and build in me. It is astounding the stories we can concoct when we place ourselves in such positions!

It felt terrible. Especially since it is rare now that I do this. I generally stay very solid and connected with me and can feel very clearly whether something is true or not.

I eventually came to my senses and realised I had totally abandoned myself because of an assumption. I saw that I had an investment in people liking me, in needing to be seen to be ‘a good nurse’ and in not making mistakes.

I knew that the only thing to do was to ask directly and I felt to do this openly with the other nurse, no matter who else might be in the office. It felt like a useful topic to discuss between us all because I knew I was not alone in this experience – it has happened to most of us.

So, the next morning I asked if there was a reason the patient had been moved: “Was there something I had or hadn’t done to upset the patient or the family?” and “If there was, could we talk about it as I would really prefer to know straight up so I can learn from it rather than it being hidden?”

They all laughed in surprise and someone said, ”No one would EVER not want you to be their nurse!”

I shared about my reactions and they said, “You’re not alone there,” and “Isn’t it horrible what we do to ourselves?”

A great discussion around reactions in our work ensued. It was wonderful. I could feel we all felt supported by the fact that I had spoken up and asked the question and that we might all do that more readily if anything similar should arise. It was like we now had permission to be more open about such situations.

It turned out that part of what I had been feeling was true in that something had happened, but it was concerning another nurse who had been assigned to and had had a difficult event occur with the patient while I was away. She had been working together with my colleague to tie up the loose ends to the satisfaction of the patient, her family and themselves.

I had made it ‘all about me.’

I learned a lot:

  • To not assume anything
  • To ask questions or express what is going on for me before letting things get out of hand
  • To remain present and connected with myself as I normally would have, which naturally ensures that I am able to respond to a situation rather than react to it.

I recognised that a past hurt led to this reaction and began taking steps to address that. Why did I need to be accepted and recognised as a ‘good or perfect nurse.’ Aren’t I enough as I am?

And, appreciation for myself was needed for speaking up, even if it had taken a while.

Through this experience and being willing to look at my part in it, I also got to appreciate my awesome colleagues for their openness and honesty and their willingness to go there with the discussion around such reactions.

By Jeanette

Related Reading:
Why are we so reactive?
An intense day?
Reaction versus response

697 thoughts on “Taking it Personally – Reaction versus Response

  1. I’m so glad I read this blog. This is something I often go into, reaction and taking things personally. You see you get these thoughts constantly fed to you, there’s this narrative that constantly plays out and from there it leads to something else and then another and so the cycle continues. And then you discover it wasn’t what your thoughts was feeding you, it was something completely different 😬🙄

    I totally understand how we have people in our lives that also invoke this, in other words, they feed that weed in your brain and from there it germinates. As for us, it is our responsibility to stay with ourselves and be present in every moment. Discerning what feels the truth and what doesn’t. It is a fitness that develops, and develops with consistency so then we can observe more and more instead of being absorbed by it.

  2. An amazing learning, I love how we learn so much from life if we are open, ‘I recognised that a past hurt led to this reaction and began taking steps to address that. Why did I need to be accepted and recognised as a ‘good or perfect nurse.’ Aren’t I enough as I am?’ Absolutely, you are more than enough.

    1. These past hurts are sometimes never ending, but I much rather that than remain buried in my body, causing havoc to my relationships with others. Let go of these baggages, they are not worth it, being with another is more important.

  3. Trouble is appreciation can’t be forced, it has to flow naturally because when it’s manufactured like it is in many spiritual practices then it simply pumps more prana into the world and it’s prana that’s at the root of all evil, literally ALL EVIL.

  4. When we take something personally it’s like slapping ourselves in the face and yet we always blame the other person, despite the fact that it’s our own hand that did the slapping.

  5. “Taking it Personally” – one day none of us will take anything personally because we’ll all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we (as in the individuals that we perceive ourselves to be) don’t exist and that what we all are is portals, fleshy tubes through which one of two intelligences come and so at the end of the day who is the who that’s taking things personally, they don’t in truth exist.

    1. The more understanding and awareness we have the more we do not take things personally, ‘what we all are is portals, fleshy tubes through which one of two intelligences come and so at the end of the day who is the who that’s taking things personally, they don’t in truth exist.’

  6. “It felt terrible. Especially since it is rare now that I do this. I generally stay very solid and connected with me and can feel very clearly whether something is true or not”, Jeanette once again I can really relate to what you’re sharing. And the recent feelings that I have had have reminded me of a way of living that I used to experience all of the time; my self worth, my identity, my daily emotional wellbeing being dependant on whatever was happening around me rather than being based on who I know myself to be in my core. In my core I am a continuation of life, an unbroken thread that remains constant. My word this is highlighting just how corrupted we have allowed ourselves to be by a consciousness that’s absolutely wreaking havoc with us.

  7. “I shrank and made myself small”, Jeanette I feel the pull to ‘shrink and make myself small’ at the moment as something has happened that I have reacted to and can feel self doubt and self recrimination snapping at my heals. I am, to the best of my ability attempting to step out of any self-incarcerating thoughts and choosing instead to re-connect with my body. ‘Self-incarcerating’ really describes what I am doing to myself perfectly, I am holding myself down by using the connotations of ‘right and wrong’ to go into judgement. I need to bring the clarity of alignment back in, i.e. to live the truth that I know, which is that I am either aligning to a consciousness that isn’t true or I am alining to a consciousness that is and this I am doing with my every word, my every thought and my every move.

    1. Self-incarcerating thoughts can easily creep in if we go into reaction, if we judge our behaviour, go into right or wrong, then self doubt and self recrimination can start to take over and connection with our body has gone. A stop moment and re-connecting with our body is a wise choice to bring back our alignment to love.

  8. I appreciate the blog Jeanette because I did the same thing today, made an assumption and went into a story and shut down a little. It was all an unnecessary complication. Also your comment about your situation coming from a past hurt has been very supportive for me too, because it makes sense why I made a certain assumption and then reactivated a familiar hurt.

    1. I can so relate how we go into reaction from a past hurts, it’s like a domino effect once one domino goes down there is that chain reaction, now I can say I know where that is coming from it’s an old reaction to something that happened in my childhood, wow am I still hanging on to those past hurts well time to let them go.

  9. As we deepen our awareness of our connection, to our Essences, Esoteric, Inner-most-heart or Soul, which are all one in the same, then every situation in life becomes simpler to respond to and thus reactions are eliminated.

  10. In the UK we are getting the election results from yesterday’s votes. I went into a huge reaction – instead of looking at the bigger picture. There is a bigger plan- which I know nothing about. All I can do is to be open to the people I meet every day and bring more love to the world.

    1. Appreciating when we are settled and surrendered, having this as our foundation, and then when we move away from this into a reaction it is easier to recognise and call out.

  11. ” I had made it ‘all about me. I learned a lot: To not assume anything…..” A great few lines for me to re-read this morning Jeanette. Having pictures and expectations – and making assumptions- do not support us in any way. Its so easy to get the wrong end of the stick – and it can be downhill from thereon in. That’s when we make it all about ourselves.

  12. Making it about ourselves is so common in nursing or any other job or other area of life and it causes so much harm as you’ve clearly described, Everything you thought and made you feel smalller about this instance was seperating you from other nurses and in that time you were in reaction you didn’t walk in the fullness that you are. How important is it then to stay open and vulnerable, appreciative of ourselves and the others which will support us to just ask if we don’t understand why things are happening around us.

  13. “I had made it ‘all about me.’ It is such a common thing to do, I see this in myself and those around me, usually it’s then a downward spiral. I feel this is because making it about ourselves cuts off the bigger picture and all that is there to be sensed from the many factors contributing to what is actually going on. Making it about ourselves reduces it down and activates all the stories.

  14. I can relate to that feeling of ‘I used to act/feel this way regularly, but now I know it’s not me’ and rather than continuing to dwell in that negativity to start taking responsibility for how I feel in the moment. It’s amazing to have that solid understanding of what energy is and isn’t me.

  15. So many times I have made the assumption it must be me that got things wrong. Why do we do this? As I address my hurts this reaction has been reducing – phew! Taking things personally – such a trap.

  16. Why is it that we automatically assume that we have done something wrong without investigating the facts beforehand. Recently, this happened to me where someone said I’d done x,y,z and for the first time in my life I said to myself, hold on a minute what if it’s not my mistake and the other person has got it wrong. On further investigation I discovered that I was correct but in the past would have just taken it on board that I was wrong without question and would give my power away to another.

  17. “It is astounding the stories we can concoct”, I agree, and it’s fairly common. I still see this in myself and once the story is allowed to take hold, and it always has a very negative slant on self, then it can escalate into many different physical, emotional and mental stresses – a very depleting experience. I agree that it’s very supportive to come back to a connection with the body.

  18. From my experience and continual learning its all in our movements, so wondering before you went back to work and doubted yourself how you had been feeling before during the time you had off? Also this is a really good example of the importance of communication and asking rather than not saying anything and getting caught up in a belief that just is not true! Awesome blog, thank you for sharing.

  19. When I react I’m making it all about me. In contrast a response is usually less about me and more about the other person – far less of ‘me me’ is involved.

  20. Taking things personally can be addictive, it’s not something that is innate to us and yet so many people in the world would think “It’s just a part of who I am”. The more connected I am to myself the more aware I am of whats actually me and whats not.

    1. We tend to all take things personally because we see ourselves as individuals, we see ourselves as very specific people with specific traits, we are literally consumed with who we perceive ourselves to be and so anything that happens we make it solely about ‘us’. And yes everything that does happen is happening solely because of us but not in the same way that we think it is. What happens to us happens as a result of the consciousness that we’re aligned to and which of the two consciousnesses we’re aligned to is governed by the way that we move our way through life. So yes everything matters but not in the way that we perceive that it does.

  21. Assuming something about another is so awful, its projecting onto either a person or situation something WE think about them not allowing them to just be or the truth to unfold.

    1. And that unfortunately is the way that all of us live our lives because that way that we think is given to us by the consciousness we’re aligned to and therefore the only way out of that way of thinking is to change the consciousness that we’re aligned to and the only way to do that is to change the way that we move.

  22. I recognised that a past hurt led to this reaction and began taking steps to address that. Why did I need to be accepted and recognised as a ‘good or perfect nurse.’ Aren’t I enough as I am…” Aren’t I enough as I am? This is a big question and it seems that society (and education in particular) is always pushing us to do or be more, rather than accepting and loving ourselves for who we are “

    1. rachelmurtagh1 I agree with you when we stay steady and not react it is a game changer. By observing, it’s like taking a step back, this allows space to discern what is going on and supports us not to judge what is happening, there is no need to defend or justify, this way of living is very liberating.

  23. Yes, you reminded me of the title of a play, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ by Shakespeare. Now there was a man who saw through the human condition and its stories and dramas!

  24. ‘ I saw that I had an investment in people liking me, in needing to be seen to be ‘a good nurse’ and in not making mistakes.’

    To avoid feelings of shame I’ve tried to be whatever indispensable version of perfect that another person would need of me. Mistakes brought the fear of being shamed. However, living this way was a lie. What’s changing is me discerning for myself where I’ve messed up, being understanding and loving as to why and taking responsibility for my part.

    The big thing has been not taking on other people’s responsibilities. This hasn’t always been appreciated but the foundation of being my own person is supporting me through this age old pattern of subservience and becoming of service.

    1. Beautifully expressed Karin. Anticipating shame plays a big part in keeping us in illusion, holding us back from getting to the truth of things.

    2. I used to appreciate my chameleon-like nature – always fitting in with everyone else, wanting them to approve of me. It can be quite a shock for them when I no longer play that game. Avoiding taking in their reaction to me then has been something that took a while to understand and accept, regardless.

      1. Appreciating ourselves is an important tool, ‘ appreciation for myself was needed for speaking up, even if it had taken a while.’

    3. ‘…being understanding and loving as to why and taking responsibility for my part.’ This is huge. When we don’t beat ourselves up we can see more clearly and bring understanding so that another time we wont make similar mistakes.

  25. Jeanette this is a great blog to support us all to explore how we let our minds carry us away with such negative thoughts about ourselves. And how easily these thoughts can fester and completely take us out.
    I have found that by addressing the situation by nipping it in the bud straight away doesn’t allow the mind to take control and poison us with its negativity.

  26. I have come to understand a little more just what the energetic impact is when we choose to react in a situation. It affects not just the people involved but everyone, as we add to the soup that we all pool into… only to make further reactions easier to make because of the collective consciousness.

    1. Thanks Rachel, this adds to the understanding of responsibility we have not to react, as that pool of non-love energy we add to fuels all the abuses of the world.

  27. What a great offering is your blog Jeanette, and so supportive for everyone who reads it. You have reminded me to not make assumptions, not embellish situations with stories, and to face up to the discomfort of complication and ask questions to get clarity.

    1. “face up to the discomfort of complication”, now that is a good point. The mind loves to embellish situations, taking us in many directions and dis-empowering us even further in the process. Easily cut by asking questions.

      1. Yesterday I had two opportunities when I could have embellished a story – and circulated what could be described as gossip. I caught myself about to share a story and felt -‘no need to spread this further’.

    2. Absolutely, not to have expectations, assumptions, or beliefs, they can cause problems, ‘I eventually came to my senses and realised I had totally abandoned myself because of an assumption. I saw that I had an investment in people liking me, in needing to be seen to be ‘a good nurse’ and in not making mistakes.’

  28. It is so crazy that we go into our head, make assumptions about people or situations and build a whole story of our own and this blog is a great reminder that It really is so simple to just ask for clarity and be honest about our own feelings.

    1. So true Judy. We can make mountains out of molehills if we make up stories in our head, rather than addressing what needs to be said, that brings more understanding and an end to the drama playing out in our mind.

    2. Yes, we create false scenarios, and let our mind take over, then we go into a reaction, ‘This happened because I assumed something and reacted.’

  29. I am deeply inspired by someone in my life who has taken to, not reacting to a whole new level despite intense onslaught. To know that living in this way is not only possible, but done with strength, awareness and purpose has moved me beyond words.

    1. Staying steady is not easy at all because the hidden forces that are attempting to constantly knock us off our path of steadiness know the intricate details of who we are and focus in on the exact things that will make us wobble, if not tumble. So it’s supportive to keep reading what’s going on and to bring everything back to energy and alignment because when we allow ourselves to get swept up in reaction then it’s so much easier to be side swiped because we’re no longer reading, we’re reacting and when we react then it’s anyone’s guess where we’ll end up!

  30. We catch hold of reactions, or run with them, but if we do the latter we are on a runaway train of an energy source that is not who we are.

    1. And basically that train has taken us so far away from the station of who we all are that we’ve completely lost sight of the fact that we’re the collective consciousness of God. We’re currently locked into a way of thinking and moving that cements the illusion of our assumed reality. We all think that we’re individuals having either a gay old time, a crap time or one of the million trillion other variations of life but the truth is we’re not, we’re just temporarily trapped in the illusion of life. But we will eventually all move our way out of this way of thinking/being/living, it will however take time.

  31. If I don’t appreciate or love myself, I am more likely to assume that others won’t like me either. Accepting ourselves is also accepting others can love us and if we don’t know how to love ourselves, how can we love someone else…

  32. This is such a great blog because it encourages us to look at how we get caught out by going into the reaction to life rather than just observing it. It’s so easy to go into the reaction because then we can make it all about ourselves. And there is a part of us called the spirit that is egomaniacal in that it is has ungoverned impulses that direct our bodies to do its bidding because it is so wrapped up in its own survival.

  33. What I am coming to realise and accept is that if I do not acknowledge what I have sensed in my body with the authority of that knowing then I lose it and go into my head. I do not have to seek the confirmation from another – that will be there and come to me so long as I hold myself in the truth of who I am and what has been offered to me.

    1. Beautiful Caroline, acknowledging the authority, the truth, of what you have sensed in your body first makes it easier to become the master of the mind, the observer of it, and say no to the many directions away from that authority it will try and take one on.

  34. Yes it is incredible how much we can project onto a situation and how much we can assume and then take that as truth. It can be so real in such a situation and I find it very interesting how the assuming and projecting actually stops us from expressing and asking questions and then as a result we are never to know the truth about the situation because we have just projected so much that we can’t see it any different way.

  35. Often our thoughts can run us around in circles and have us believe nonsense which effectively can affect our mental health. That’s why it’s important to watch and catch the negative thoughts about ourselves and others, and keep catching them until they have lost their hold. Even the smallest of niggles and subtle thoughts can take a hold and need to be cut. Then add a healthy dose of appreciation in its place and the body will feel lighter and our thinking clearer.

  36. Reaction Vs Response is the same as reaction vs indulgence in what ever poison we choose. It is a learning process to stop indulging and choosing love.

  37. Clocking how much we react to life and to each other, even in the subtlest of ways it becomes apparent that there is a hardly a moment in the day where we are not in reaction of some sort. No wonder we live in nervous tension and stress.

  38. When we consider how much of us in this world are trigger happy with reactions, it’s well worth the connection within to choose differently.

  39. I am noticing more and more how people do take things personally even if I don’t, in that moment, and how I can then either react to how they are reacting and get caught in an energy that goes round and round or even judge them in some way for their reaction, neither of which is helpful. Observing, staying connected to my inner heart and allowing deeper understanding to emerge brings a connection to others too and when in doubt lovingly ask, as you did Jeanette, to confirm what in truth, we already know.

  40. What a fabulous lesson you share, Jeanette, in which there are so many aspects to learn and appreciate. Thank you.

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