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

715 thoughts on “Taking it Personally – Reaction versus Response

  1. 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.

  2. “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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. “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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 “

  12. ‘ 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.

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. We can create such a mix up when we react or don’t express what we are feeling, there is such a difference to observe when we feel and respond to what is needed instead.

  15. 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.

  16. 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’.

  17. 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.

  18. There is a lot of clarity for us here to help us understand the difference between response or reaction. It supports us in our own lives to pause and catch ourselves before the reaction comes, thank you.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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…

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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

  31. I can relate to this …I have jumped to a conclusion in my mind that can justify a hurt that can then have me reacting strongly to something that wasn’t real in the first place. A very humbling scenario. There had to be a lack of love in me in the first place to even go there.

  32. Evidence of the affect of assumption and not expressing what we feel and … doesn’t it feel horrible when we do this! Great that you cut it. On reflection I am just wondering how many of us in the world are living with a feeling of self doubt or lack of self worth etc just because we have assumed something about ourselves, another or and event and not expressed how we feel? Expression really is key ✨

    1. It seems to me that when looked at on more than a superficial level the whole fabric of society is made up of assumption, reaction, complication which then feeds the self doubt and lack of self worth this engenders. The process is much like the one used to ‘felt’ a blanket or a garment – it requires great friction and a lot of hot water to shrink it to the denseness required with tendrils, strands and fibres entangling and tightly knitting with each other at every turn. Looked at like this we can see how this denseness and compaction within and around us then makes it virtually impossible to feel what is truly going on let alone express it.

  33. It’s never personal. Our reactions are just an exposure of our addiction to creation. It’s never about x y z, or whatever story we come up with, but always showing us the huge investments and addictions we have to creation.

  34. I’m learning to stop the stories that can go on in my head. Like I like silence in my day – so things like background TV or car radios aren’t my cup of tea, it’s like I can’t hear myself think. Well, so too with these stories in my head, possible scenarios etc. they’re like background noise circulating about making me feel a little nauseous and not with myself. Not great at all.

    1. Our own personal little radio station, forever broadcasting until we realise that we have the means to simply switch it off, say no to the, more often than not, ridiculous content it spews forth.

  35. Jeanette this is one of the best blogs I have ever read, because I can so relate. Since reading this blog it has been easier for me to realise when I am being paranoid and letting self doubt in instead of seeing it for the clarity it is.

  36. It is great Jeanette how you can share so openly with us that you realised how you had created this whole story and drama about nothing, so we can all relate to similar circumstances we have created. I know I have many stories I can learn from with this exposure of the games.

    1. 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!

  37. I know and understand that everything is energy, yet when it comes to people I don’t feel the energy first. I make it all about the person and take it personally. I know that I would react less if I observed what energy someone is in (including myself) and then I wouldn’t get taken by surprise so much.

    1. Thanks Rachel, I appreciate your honesty, I’m exactly the same. I often can make it about energy first but the issue is investment in and attachment to certain people and not accepting it as it is, and wanting it to be different. It’s a form of imposing in its own way, so I am looking forward to being more detached and offering people space by respecting their choices.

  38. I absolutely love this, it’s all about not letting our imagination fester and instead going straight to the source, to find out what is truly going on.

  39. ‘eventually came to my senses and realised I had totally abandoned myself because of an assumption.’ I have done this so much and reading this makes me realise how unloving this is.

    1. It is so easy to fall into the trap of taking things personally when we are still learning that everything is because of energy first and foremost. For me at the moment the scales are tipped in favour of the former, but with increased awareness and observation I am hoping the balance will soon tip the other way!

  40. When I react and take things personally I completely shut down any opportunity to learn. It is like in reaction I become impenetrable to what is on offer. When I don’t react and see the opportunity to learn, there is a rich exchange that many can grow from.

  41. I reacted the other day at work that was out of form for me. Our office is small and open plan. There are seven of us in the office and consist of: the boss, two for finance, three maintenance managers and head of security. There are four that are non-sports people: the boss, finance and me. I was having a conversation with one of staff when a football conversation started with so of the workers and the all the others in the office that all support different teams. The crescendo of voices vying to support their teams rose to an all-out din to the point I could not hear the person I was talking to and just said WHAT! I stopped enjoining them by not reacting further by finishing the sentence with a ‘what the (expletive)‘. My short expression worked, and the din ended.

  42. “I fell into a whole self–created story around my worth and my competence….” and that is just what we do, fall/ dive head first into our stories without the understanding of energy first.

  43. When we take something personally, we are stuck with what we are feeling in ourselves, and it is so great to observe whether we are in reaction or response, because that is the way out of this repetitive behaviour so many of us can do all the time.

    1. I notice that the less time I spend looking after myself on a daily/weekly basis the quicker I am to react to any given situation. The more time I spend looking after myself the easier I find it to respond to a situation and remain steady.

    2. I agree. The more I truly accept and honour myself, the more open I am to the minute by minute learning that is on offer, free of the critical voice that keeps me busy feeling inadequate.

  44. I am realising recently that it is super important to be aware of those thoughts that come into our heads and can take us way off track or blow things completely out of proportion. They can sneak in when you least expect it and one of the ways to combat this is to maintain a steady consistent connection with the body and from there an awareness as to the energetic quality of these thoughts so we can tell if they are from love or not.

    1. Staying in and connected to the body – yes – a recipe for reducing those pesky thoughts that can drop in with such ease if we don’t remain alert and aware of the body..

  45. In the past if I ever reacted to something I only saw one explanation to it: the other person or the situation was wrong. More and more though, I am noticing that it is possible to know as early as the start of the morning, that it is going to be one of those days! If I ever react, I can trace it back to me being off to start with in one form or another. Turns the whole thing right round.

  46. I’m noticing the clear difference in observing and not reacting recently, and the fact that when I do react, there is a definite purpose to it – it’s like eating a chocolate bar – it’s very intentional too take us out. The irresponsibility is that we do it and don’t care what the impact is on others.

    1. There really is a different between reaction and response they come from two completely different places. Reaction is the spin out, the self doubt, the drama etc etc whereas response comes from as you say a lived quality from the body, there is a calmness, steadiness, questioning, and of course no attachment to whatever has gone on or the outcome.

  47. Sometimes can make the assumption that the people we know would not be open to discussing things that shine a light on our own or their behaviour, and then when they do we are surprised. This is a great example of what assuming can do and how destructive it can be.

    1. Agreed, and it is our own arrogance that assumes we know better when actually there is a whole world of unspoken communication going on that if we reminded ourselves how to listen to it and how to read it, we would know what to say, when to say it and actually, if it needed saying at all!

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