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

553 thoughts on “Taking it Personally – Reaction versus Response

  1. Past hurts can get us in to a lot of trouble. The more we value ourselves the more these hurts fade away and when a situation arises the stronger we are to respond appropriately. When we start and end the day with a focus on our own self care’ paying attention to the quality that we are bringing to ourselves, this supports us too and is a basic start to feeling our own love.

  2. I love that your learning was”
    “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.”
    A lesson worth gold, thank you.

  3. I feel like because we never speak up and say things straight, either when we do have an issue with an-others behaviour, or when we feel like something might be personal, we are left to just quietly erode our self esteem, but as you so beautifully shared, speaking up makes the whole situation much clearer.

  4. I recently had an experience of being on the other end of an interaction where I made the choice to no longer speak to someone, and the other person could have taken my decision personally – it was a situation that I had myself been in and had taken very personally in the past, but i realised, being the one actually making that choice that it was not at all a personal decision, but 100% just to do with me – so there was nothing personal about it. It is amazing how quickly and easily we make it about our own faults rather than being open to what else might be at play.

  5. Oh wow how often I have done this! Someone can just look at me differently or speak to me in a certain way, and i would take it personally, even though i know when i have things going on for me and I maybe don’t smile at someone or am more curt with someone, it has nothing to do with them at all.

  6. It is so easy to go for reaction because we have made it such a common way to live but as you unravel here there is another way, a way that is less complicated, a way that brings us together, has us understand and move forward together.

  7. Speaking up, when we come from and with love and not out of reaction allows everyone an opportunity to see things differently, more clearly and thus everything can be clarified. So often we can go away from situations thinking completely different things to each other, but when we express in full we go away the same.

  8. Sometimes we do really well and others react in unpredictable ways which can be surprisingly positive or devastatingly-seeming negative. That is their right, though does not protect them from the consequences.

  9. The teaching about turning the other cheek was never about allowing oneself to be abused but rather about understanding the difference between reacting and responding. Reacting which always engages emotions, always harms both ourself and the other person, responding does not. Responding is the path to greater wisdom.

  10. Being oversensitive to criticism can have us reacting to life a lot more than what is healthy for us and can have us look at things from a viewpoint of our hurts; then we will not see things clearly.

  11. A great sharing of the importance of appreciation for ourselves and how this allows us to see the bigger picture of what is going on and not make everything so personal and the beautiful understanding this allows.

  12. Appreciation is like a key or the glue that holds us together when we are going through any type of resistance that we are feeling and will unravel us. So always stop and take a moment to appreciate the love we all can bring then everything else becomes like water of a ducks back.

  13. ‘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?’ It is great you have written this, this is something I do a lot and i know many others who do, it feels really important to not doubt ourselves but to understand what has happened and why – always being loving, supportive and gentle with ourselves.

  14. In any situation it is love that responds and all that is not-love that reacts. Therefore response versus reaction is a very good marker to see exactly where we are at with the expression of our love. Naturally what is not of the love we are made of will be felt as a tension within us so in a way it is normal to feel the initial reaction to this. However, how we respond from this point – whether we go into the reaction (absorb the tension) or not, will be determined by how much love we are willing to express and the depth of love we are willing to go to in order to counter that which opposes it.

  15. Whilst I generally feel to just let people be, there are times when I feel to touch in with someone and ask how they are and that can be very heartwarming and touching for them that you cared. The art I feel is in the reading. Sometimes a shell is still a cry for help just a little more tricky to approach. I confess there are still times when I do clock someone is not their usual self and have held back to my regret, I suppose that old fear of rejection or getting it wrong thing still sits in the shadows, hence it is great to step into the light.

  16. In a business it can be easy to imagine there is something wrong when a client not longer uses your services. I have come to see many times over that the client returns having say, been very ill, working or living abroad, or any number of reasons nothing to do with me at all. As we stop personalising these things we don’t add illusion to the mix, but just relax with an open door, have no attachments and in fact make it easier for people to come towards us if they feel to. This is akin to referring people elsewhere when something else is needed, with our blessing, and it feels great.

  17. “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”. If only we were raised to see that when we react, make ourselves small, lack self-worth etc that it is an energy passing through us, and nothing to do with who we are. Then we could see it for what it is and avoid the tail spin from negative thoughts and feelings.

  18. I recently had an experience where I reacted and very clearly made something all about me. Whilst in reaction I was not able to see the truth of what was going on, but once I stepped back and communicated (rather than just assuming what was going on) I realised that what I thought was an issue was nothing at all. How often do we get caught up in things making them issues, when there is nothing to get caught up in and no issue in the first place.

  19. Being open and honest simplifies life beyond measure. Sometimes it does take me a while to navigate through old patterns to get to what is simply needed, but the more I do it the less there is to work through to get to the simplicity.

    1. Very true Rowena. I have noticed when I am in reaction I am often wanting to blame someone else and therefore not wanting to see the part that I have played, thereby not wanting to take responsibility.

  20. What I like about this situation is that Jeanette spoke up and the conversation between her colleagues took place. This is a good example of how speaking up can clarify matters and stop the negative thoughts.

  21. When we nourish and nurse ourselves are we adding to the cycle of Love that brings a deeper understanding about what reactions are and what they feel like in our bodies so we can go about life responding in the most Loving ways!

    1. I love that phrase Greg “nourish and nurse ourselves”. To nurse is seen to be all about others, but we can certainly nurse ourselves as well.

      1. Being well it is simple to nurture ourselves and when we are off-song the greatest way to return to ourselves that inner lived quality is to nourish our body with a simple walk.

    2. Yes I agree and have often experienced that when I am in reaction to something ‘nursing myself’ out of it is the only thing that works..be very gentle with myself and avoiding any self-criticism, blame or judgement about it is super important otherwise it just adds more reactions on top.

      1. So True Andrew, appreciating that we already have all the tools to bring a Loving response is an amazing feeling and if we don’t respond then we are out and all we need to do is take ourselves for a walk to reestablish our divine connection.

  22. This highlights how very important it is for each of us to express what we are feeling … it not only supports us but supports everyone else too.

    1. I like this. Taking things out of the limitations of living with ourselves as the focus and having a relationship with the bigger picture that we may not know the unfolding of – in this example the impact of Jeanette being open and honest and how everyone else responded and opened up too.

  23. We are sold from the beginning that life’s about right and wrong – and so we try to navigate life being the best – only mistakes are part of our every day and nothing to do with who we are inside. Our beauty is untouchable and not defined by activities and outcomes.

  24. It is an important fact that we sometimes choose to not see – that whenever we react, the reaction is actually revealing a lot more about our own unresolved issues than it is about we are reacting to.

    1. Very true – if we have no issues, the reaction is usually short and replaced by an awareness of what exactly is going on.

  25. If we truly appreciate the power of even our simplest moves then we will be less susceptible to being knocked by what happens on what we might consider to be a ‘bigger’ level.

  26. Something similar happened to me with a client recently and I, (long story though I won’t go in to it) went into one in my head and by the time I rang him I was ready to explode and I kind of did and told him what for and then after hearing what he had to say I realised I had got the wrong end of the stick. If I had rung him straight away I would have avoided a minor embarrassment and settled the matter without getting my nickers in a twist.

  27. ‘I had made it ‘all about me.’’ You are not alone, we have all become very good at this and created lives with it being all about me, often even in the guise of not being it is often self-motivated.

    1. It sure is Michael and I know this well! It is so easy to make us the centre of attention when it may have nothing to do with us. I find this a lot when someone maybe speaking and another person jumps in and gives their story about what happened to them when it may be a similar sounding situation yet be completely different.

  28. When we react to something, it feels like a battle of right and wrong is set up, and creates a reaction back from another: “it was this way”…”oh no it wasn’t”. When we learn to respond, it feels very much like we all get a healing and a learning along the way because the conversation will grow with the response.”was it that way?”…”oh maybe it was.”

  29. It is a very beautiful moment when we open up and honestly share what is happening for us, it enables everyone to share their own misgivings, which invariably brings greater understanding and awareness for all of us.

  30. ‘To ask questions or express what is going on for me before letting things get out of hand’ …. this feels so important for all relationships. Without this open honesty we continue to make assumptions and potentially feel very hurt by things that may very well not be true – before we know it, we’ve created a major issue, which may be completely baseless because we have chosen not to speak up and share how we are feeling.

  31. “I recognized that a past hurt led to this reaction and began taking steps to address that.” It is a huge step forward when we can recognize what lies behind our reactions and deal with the backlog. When consistently addressed over time the tendency to react lessens, we can observe such situations with a little more space and come to see that more often than not, they do not revolve around us.

    1. A great point Ariana … are we being irresponsible in our reaction or are we being responsible in our response?

      1. A great question indeed for a reaction never helps anyone and only furthers to delay our inevitable return back to the love we are. Even when we maybe fully justified in reacting to a situation, the fact is to do so we have to abandon the love we are and that is never justifiable.

  32. ‘Why did I need to be accepted and recognised as a ‘good or perfect nurse.’ Aren’t I enough as I am?’ – Ha, the billion dollar question Jeanette! We are indeed ALL enough as we are.

  33. Some days it is so simple to give a response and other days there can be an instant reaction. The more I am with myself, love myself and everybody and the more I maintain the quality I want to live in the less I react.

    1. I find this also Monika. The more I have given myself the space to be with my true quality and honour that, the more observation is naturally with me and it is less likely for me to take something personally, reinterpret, misinterpret or go into reaction over something. With the observation I am able to read the situation clearly and respond as needed.

      1. Love it, Johanna. And from what you share it is also very easy and effortless to have understanding. Control and taking things personal don’t go together with understanding. There is simply no space for the first when we make it about love.

  34. A great example where we notice something but then automatically assume that we are at fault – a protective mechanism to guard against the possibility that it is our fault. Sometimes it can be us who get the blame but we get attacked because we have done a particularly good job and learning not to react in those circumstances can be very beneficial.

  35. Taking things personal and the need to control go often hand in hand. Surrender, true observation and understanding are great tools that support us to realize that we are so much more than just physical human beings and that we can connect to our multidimensionality.

    1. When we take things personally, we have already separated from the magnificence that we are a part of, the control comes from wanting to protect ourselves from getting attacked and being hurt. However, when we re-connect to the truth, through our bodies, we remember that we are not alone, that there is no right or wrong, just an amazing journey that we are on together full of learning with enormous support available from each other.

    2. I’ve noticed that control can slo come in when we want to mitigate the outside situation so we don’t need to feel the unease or unrest. However when we allow ourselves to develop a deep settlement and marker of ease in the body then it is far easier to read and understand what takes place.

  36. Assuming can get us in deep water…we can lose our way and lose the truth of what is going on in a situation. Assuming has a set agenda and outcome, it is a prison cell, no freedom of movement.

      1. True and assumptions are enough to give someone with a reputation that destroy their lives or have them shunned by society. We do not bother to think for ourselves and get swayed by the crowd or by our own agendas…and truth gets ignored.

    1. Assuming is all based on pictures and doesn’t offer space, love or as you beautifully say: ‘freedom of movement’. Assumptions grab you and before you know it your thoughts and movements have changed.

      1. Yes I can feel that in my movements , when I have chosen an assumption, you do get caught up in them and they drag you along, you can feel chained, enraged, judgemental, righteous, fearful, small, bloated and pumped up etc..there are many outcomes, but the push and force is the same…we are being puppeted, by an agenda already set, we do not think for ourselves, we are owned.

    2. I wonder what makes us assume versus consider and look and explore the depth of what is being asked or said? It would make life much simpler if we wanted to see the whole rather than assume the best or worst.

      1. I love your pondering in this comment…we are so often quick to jump to a decision or idea….an assumption…I would say there is something of relief and blame in it, irresponsibility…it is a lazy way of living, we we do not need to be truly awake and make responsible choices. Correct life would be more simple if we looked at the whole, rather than our narrow personal perceptions in life and there is something about how we like the detraction of the complicated rather than the flow of the simple…that is really there for all of us to look at. Thank you.

      1. It is a dangerous and harmful choice to ‘assume’, I agree, it does make a fool out of us and for sure keeps us in the mud and no arising out of it, very limiting. We think we are right and entitled to our assumptions, which can result in all levels of denigration, but where does the right come from…It shows our lack of confidence in our bodies, we rely on the thoughts in our head, not understanding that the quality of those thoughts directly correlates with the way we have been living and moving and how much we have been in relationship with and honouring of our bodies. The fuel we put in, the moves we make, the ideas we allow to percolate either nourish and enhance of fog and corrupt.

      1. Yes we do not like to think we have set agendas we walk around with, we like to call ourselves ‘open minded’, but if we do not deal with our hurts, if we think from a selfish place…we have an agenda…this can be as small as trying to get the big piece of cake at dinner time, to stabbing someone in a mob lynching…how big our our hurts…and our ideas of entitlement of those hurts…this is the factor that many of us do not consider when we make a decision….assumption. We are lead by the ring in our nose, a slave to ideas/pictures that we do not deal with or question and think are part of us.

  37. When we respond, rather than react, we not only have a very different experience in our own body and well-being, we also give space to all those concerned.

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