Monday, February 7, 2011
Did you know that reactivity begins organically, that it is a true chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when a situation triggers it? Situations, like my son carrying a bowl of paint across the carpet, or my daughter deciding to pour her own milk, or a driver cutting me off in traffic, release lovely chemicals in my brain, taking 90 seconds to completely run its course. As soon as our brain receives the alarm (chemical), it actually evaluates the situation in front of us, flipping through our files like a rolodex to see if we have a quick, convenient response that we have used before. But this process is actually faster than I described. Instead of using the 90 seconds, the brain defaults to an ingrained super highway that has evolved over years of practice and experience. Our reactions are connected to super speedy shortcuts, like bullet trains, with no thought, no space, no air between the cause and its effect. This is our brain's way of being efficient, to reduce the amount of time between stimulus and reaction. This is reactivity. By the time our 90 seconds are up, it's too late and our actions and our responses are over, and regret pours in with rationality.
So, I am taking my 90 seconds back!! See, though reactivity is chemical, our responses are habit. Those 90 seconds mean everything in tearing up those pathways. Like habits, we can break them. We can pump air back into that space, giving us the time to choose and respond the way we really want to. We can breath through all of it. We can wait out those 90 seconds, until thought and sensibility arrive. We can create new pathways. We can move from reactivity to "response-ability" as Jill Bolte Taylor puts it so beautifully in her book. It will take practice. It will take mindfulness. It will take time, but that is okay. I have the time. I now have 90 seconds.