Understanding Our Reacting

Understanding Our Reacting

Understanding_Aug 31 2014

As I re-read my previous article on “Seeking to understand than React”, I could not help but feel there was something missing in the writing which I was unable to convey – how did we come to the habit of “reacting”?  

What leads us to quickly react to others’ accusations and blames and lose our temper?

How do we get so sensitive to any negativity which breaks us down and we do not want to stand up again?

Why is there such quick reaction in us to any tiny fault of others , and all we want to do is to see others suffer from what they deserve?

I realize that before we arrive at the state of understanding, we shall understand our reactive mechanism which has the enormous impact in our lives. This reinforces my further exploration and I hope to share with you all.

Our reactive mechanism begins at birth. We are granted naturally the animal survival instincts which keep us away from the danger/risk – we feel hungry which reminds us the importance of the maintained energy intake; we feel pain which reminds us we are hurt and wounded.

As we get older, we learn to adapt into the more complex environment. Our experiences are deepened with the growth of our knowledge and capability. We face the differences and diversity, and in order to embrace them we learn to suppress our natural  drive to stay within the protective zone. We train ourselves to differentiate between the different levels of danger in contrast of the better outcomes, such that while we can continue to stay away from real destruction, we can also choose to face the challenges which ultimately give us meaningful learning outside the smooth and peaceful journey.

Perhaps that is how people challenge themselves against the fear of freefall via skydive or bungee jump.

Or people who train themselves against the avoidant instincts to serve as one of the security and military members.

Or people who let go their protective instinct of physical danger, and continue to risk for better performance in high risk sports as gymnastics, skiing and many other.

“Put down the weakness and fear. Just do it.”  These phrases are our common motto which accompany us to our development. I would like to give light to the meaning from the sharing of Hong Kong education. Most children begin their life competition assigned by parents as early as two. While parents compete to get their children to the best kindergarten education, they also do their best to help register their children to the different talents, from piano, to flute, or drawing, to creative artwork, etc., which act as tools for the better future. It is no wonder there is constant news coverage on the relatively severe psychological states of many children who refused to return to school from summer vacation out of parental pressuring (http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/1579181/children-who-refuse-go-school). There has also been a research study on depression, in which a survey was conducted in 19 local secondary school, that near half of the 9,174 students had mild to severe depression symptoms; 23.8% students reported mild to severe suicidal thoughts (Chinese version: http://www.singpao.com/xw/gat/201408/t20140831_525172.html). It is saddening to learn how suppressed the students have been to catch up with the external and unwanted expectations from the closed ones, until they can longer hold the pressure and react in the worst way.

I connect our reactive mechanism with the suppression of our bodies, minds and hearts. Most of us believe we “conquer and control”  us to do everything, yet suppression is not the best way to control, and certainly it is no near the power of conquering. We intend to keep the ball of  “natural power of instincts” under the water, only it returns back to the surface again and again – the harder we suppress, the more vigorous the ball revolts back to the surface.

I recall the similar symptoms for an ordinary habit of my sleeping pattern. There was a time I was indulged by the guilty pleasure from internet surfing, that I continuously had less than 6 hours of sleep everyday. At first I thought I could adapt into the changing routine successfully, until one day I had physical fitness training for hours that I hit the bed long before midnight. Since then it was as if there was a leak of my sleep deprivation, and it just in rush comes out from the dark and controls the every part of my body. I began to feel exhausted even during daytime, and surprisingly such symptoms did not disappear after a day of my 10 hours sleep. I began to realize how much my body was suffering that it cannot be resolved in one click – afterall I used to sleep late for days, thus I needed the equal if only more days to recover.


Perhaps this is what our “reactive mechanism” is about. As we are way out of our own control, the biological instincts kick in again, and act as the warning signal to us for our deeply suppressed bodies, minds and hearts. What is even more worrying and even deeply buried is our pain and suffering  as the collaboral product from our suppression. 

We all are bound to have wounds and trauma. Across the journey of writing, I have come terms with the inevitable imperfectness of us and our world, and so the inevitable outcomes of both the sweet, and sour, bitterness and spice. Along the journey we rise, and so we fall. Fading away is the new energetic spirit, and replaced  as our more adaptive, experienced scarred soul. Once left with the mark, the heart is no longer freshly new. We begin to slowly take back the curious hands which cross around our bodies.

Certainly as the suppression is too much to bear, that our biological instinct revolts to protect us, at same time we are too vulnerable to cover the long deep pain and hurt, that they jump out from the dark and attack us. And so we lose the control of self and get driven by the dark past.

And then we react. From small to the big things, thoughts, feelings. I remember one time as I learnt a typical home scene between a mother and her daughter – the mother just came out from the kitchen with the second dish of food, and then she yelled at her child for “stealing” the food from the table. She claimed to hear the “sounds” and blamed her child for something she did not do so. It seems as a small incident, yet I felt strongly towards the mother as I realized that what was driving the mother mad was not the “stealing act”, but her underneath long suppressed internal frustration and hurt, probably from frustration and exhaustion of failing repetitively to reach the “perfectness” of taking care of home she has set for the family, which forced her to block herself from trust and patience.

We react, as it is so hard for us to hold back our pain and hurt. And yet our rational still forces us to continue suppressing ourselves. And so we are left with no other way, but to let out our injuries in any uncontrollable way. Perhaps it is not that we lack the ability to understand the other person, but only we are so tragically controlled by the destruction of our minds and hearts.

We react, perhaps because from the hurt and pain, we believe that our marking scars are not nothing, but paid for our long journey of lessons – afterall the “payment” was shed with sweat, tears and even blood. The marks teach us to protect ourselves. We begin to only trust our experiences of hurt and pain, and defend whatever comes threatening us. Perhaps that is how we slowly fall back to the control of the natural protective instincts, and yet we still blindly believe it is the rational and intelligent way to protect ourselves. And then we form the castle wall around us  – when enemy approaches, the warning fire is put on, and we enter the battle. And soon our world becomes narrower; our wall continuously to be thickened.

I believe we shall attend to our hurt and pain.

Before we face the others, we shall face ourselves.

Before we understand the others, we understand ourselves.

And so as we react, we turn to our reacting, and give it a tap. 

Understand it. Allow ourselves to listen to its stories, and give time for it to calm down. Only then our own hurt and pain can have its own way to be released, and we return to the balance between protecting ourselves and challenging ourselves. And so we are with the others.

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