compare: coping mechanism, default setting

The repetition of a past behavior. You re-act the same way you did before, which indicates you are not using all your abilities in a fresh and spontaneous way.

A reaction is a complex state that can be broken down into four levels:

  • your physical being
  • your thinking or mindset
  • your actions
  • your emotions

Once you become aware of your default reaction(s), you have the possibility of not reacting automatically but to choose how you want to act in a given situation. The idea is that you find a specific element that forms part of your reaction as an indicator to get back to awareness.

Reactions do not define you as a whole being, but are specific to certain situations. Being able to identify the times when you react automatically, is another step in gaining more awareness and thus personal freedom in acting in a given situation.

Mostly, we have one or two aspects we are aware of and others that escape our attention.
E.g. A person always gets irritated when a stressful situation occurs, but is not aware that she holds shoulders and pulls the diaphragm in. She might also not notice that she is mainly busy with explaining how she ended up in this situation. She becomes very fast in her movements and forgets to eat or drink.  The mood in this case would the the aspect the person is aware of. Becoming aware of the whole stress reaction, you will feel it more intensely and you can choose to try something new.

Often, however, we define ourselves by our reactions. I am this way, I can’t change it. Realizing that you’ve let yourself be defined by your reactions, is important.

If you want to take some time, listen or read David Foster Wallace’scommencement speech in which he also refers to our default settings.


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