Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Right response

What can we learn from water in a pond?

We notice but do not think much about how the water responds when we drop anything into it.

If we can term the response, it is certainly a 'measured response'.

The amount of disturbance in the form of ripples is very appropriate to deal with the action (such as dropping a stone). If we drop a bigger object, more and wide spread ripples lasting longer and if we drop a pebble, small ripples that disappear quickly.

Can we take something from this to better our lives? We certainly can. We should examine ourselves if we respond with a 'measured response' appropriate for the action. More often than not we 'over react'. We do not even respond. We just react. In the hope of neutralizing the threat (many times our perception), we react with more than required power.

Take for example - someone disagrees with us. This is an action. 'Measured response' in this case consists of first to acknowledge their action and second is to weigh what it means to us. Rest should follow based these two points. Many times, our reaction to disagreements is to become very volatile or completely withdrawn depending upon our nature and circumstances. Both of these are certain extreme overreactions and do not help to deal with the situation.

There is also a huge difference between a response and a reaction. Response is normally an act which has been thought out with pros and cons reasonably well understood. Reaction is more often what we call a knee jerk reaction and is more instinctive than anything else. Of course we can not plan a response for every conceivable event. That will lead to "paralysis by over analysis". However, we can certainly develop a framework which enables us to develop and deliver a response. We can adjust the framework to suit the conditions. If there is not much time to develop a detailed response, framework will allow us to provide at least a poor but timely response (may well be close to reaction) with full understanding of the circumstances under which we responded that way.

We do not recognize harmful effects of over reaction because its effect are slow but lasting. Many effects are not good for us. Frequent overreaction leads to ultimate nervous breakdown. Some sort of allergies are attributed to tendency to overreact. High blood pressure has become very common in people who react in a volatile manner to every small thing which goes against their grain. People who become withdrawn also overreact in a different manner. Such people have been found to develop all sort of gastrointestinal disorders because of the effect of repressed emotions on the system.

So, if repressing emotions has harmful effects, should we go ahead and express emotions and feel relieved? Most of the negative emotions such as impatience, anger, hatred, fear, greed etc. have negative impact when repressed. They have even worse impact when expressed as being very expressive with such emotions is the surest way to alienate the world around you. So, what do we do?

Answer is harnessing the emotions. Emotions are energy. How do put it to use is up to us. Transform negative emotions to positive ones even if we have to fake it till you make it. Famous prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi is a great one to repeat so that we can always remember that it is possible to transform negative emotions to positive ones. We can pray to Lord using this prayer to empower is to effect such a transformation. This Sri Easwaran's favorite prayer or one of the favorites.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

So, always respond instead of reacting. By responding you are in control. We can not control what is hurled at us but we can control our responses. Always plan to provide a measured response. Conserve the energy wasted from over reaction. Transform negative emotions to positive emotions to have best of both worlds.


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