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  • Dr. Stuart Cantor

Emotional Reactions and Thoughtful Responses

We aren’t robots, so we have emotional reactions to those very human negative, emotional situations.

We get angry. Strong, negative emotional reactions just means that we are human. However, we respond to our reactions. It’s our response that defines our character and maturity level. How quickly we move from our angry emotional reaction, and respond, emotionally, automatically, responding emotionally as well, without really thinking about how best to respond.

Sometimes, the automatic emotional response to our human emotional reactions are instinctual, or immaturity. sometimes it’s learned through personal experience, or a culturally defined, learned social behavior from observing our families and social networks.

After we have an emotional reaction, and we need to respond to what caused that reaction. We typically let it be an automatic and habitual emotional response. We might say, well, that’s me, or that’s the way it goes - despite the harmful, hurtful effects of our automatic emotional response? And it is true that how we respond to our emotional reactions is one of the well known personality traits.

How do we respond to our strong, human emotional reactions with thoughtfulness, with mindfulness and rationality?

It starts with thinking. But before we can think about things and not react automatically, we need to make it a principle to breathe, pause and reflect. Then go about it. Breathe, and then, do the thinking necessary to resolve the problem. Thinking takes time, we need to breathe, pause and reflect. Then start trying to understand what’s happening. Looking at things, thinking about them, to see how to respond in a way that is in our best interest, in the relationships best interest.

In a conversation with a loved one, this will sometimes not go well. Arguments happen. Breathe. Pause. Reflect. What am I upset about, what do I need to say, how have I made things go this way treating the other person a certain way?

This is what mature, functional adults will typically do, thoughtfully react in an emotional situation. But the operative word is mature, which is really just a level of functional, rational ability and development that many grown adults don’t seem reach, for whatever reason (and there are many).

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