How Can We Move From Reactivity To Responsiveness?
We live in very reactive times. I’ve had client after client tell me about how reactive they’ve been. I’ve seen it in the world at large too.
Right now, Mars energy is very strong – and will be all year. It will be more intense in the coming month.
Each planet represents certain archetypes. Within each archetype are higher and lower octaves or higher and lower frequency energies.
The lower octave/frequency of Mars is what we’re seeing everywhere: aggression, anger, people flying off the handle, warlike actions.
At least here in the US, we no longer live in a culture where courtesy is prized and where civility is not just the norm, but is expected. So we are seeing a lot of that more aggressive Mars energy everywhere.
Covid hasn’t helped. It created so much upheaval for everyone that most people the world over are more reactive in general.
It’s no wonder that reactivity is on the rise around the planet. Our experience with Covid the past 3 years has put everyone in survival mode in one way or another.
Add to that the heightened divisions, as well as hate- and fear-mongering, especially fostered by the media, and you have a stew of reactivity.
But here’s the thing. If you allow yourself to be reactive; or if you stay in reactivity, then you never come out of survival mode. What’s more, survival mode takes resources away from the body: your immune system doesn’t function as well and neither do most of your other systems, including your endocrine (hormones) and digestive systems.
To move out of survival mode, and into growth mode, you need to also shift out of reactivity into response.
The Difference Between Reactivity & Responsiveness
What’s the difference between reactivity and responsiveness?
Reactivity is impulsive; it’s without conscious thought. It’s knee-jerk.
Reactivity comes out of the primitive brain – the part of the brain that is focused on survival. It’s also fundamentally resistant. When you’re reactive, you’re resisting the situation in which you find yourself.
Responsiveness on the other hand, is deliberate. It implies thoughtful action that considers long and short term outcome in the context of the situation at hand.
Coming back to Mars. I talked about the lower frequency archetypal Mars energy – the kind that is so prevalent right now.
But there is higher octave Mars energy: it’s about strength, robustness, channeling anger to create change instead of staying in victim. It’s also about the courage to face what’s in front of you, and to respond instead.
The only way to access this higher octave/frequency is through responding instead of reacting.
So how can you move from reactivity to responsiveness?
The Keys are Awareness & Mindfulness
Awareness is key and also the first step – but it’s also more than 50% of the solution.
Mindfulness is also key. When something happens and you begin reacting, try the following:
Center yourself and get grounded.
Look at the larger picture.
Yes, we’re in the midst of very reactive times, but we’re also in the midst of fundamental transformation. If you can see that whatever is causing you to react isn’t the final outcome; if you can recognize that someone’s actions towards you are their stuff not yours; if you can know that the larger outcome is awakening and renewal, that can help you to stop. Take a deep breath. And don’t act out — don’t react.
Instead, take the time to go inward, to see what triggered you, and heal that in yourself. From this place you can respond instead.
Work With Your Breath
Another way to move out of reactivity and into responsiveness is through breath-work.
The number of individuals with allergies in the US is the highest it’s ever been since they started keeping records.
Did you know that if you are anxious or afraid (or reactive), you stop breathing deeply? And when you don’t breathe deeply, your brain doesn’t scan your whole body. And when your brain doesn’t scan your body fully, it can miss the things it would notice and automatically heal.
You may know that stress compromises your immune system and increases inflammation. But did you know that not breathing deeply does the same thing?
People have gotten out of the deep breathing – taking long, deep breaths. Increasingly, people don’t seem to know how to slow themselves down. They panic. And when you panic, you can’t breathe.
When you’re in resistance to everything – you aren’t breathing deeply.
Did you know that breath work is key to spiritual growth in most spiritual traditions? It is one of the keys to moving out of reactivity into responsiveness.
What you can do: Look up breath work.
Go to your spiritual tradition and see what kind of breath work is part of it. You might have to dig, but it will be there. Then try out whatever practices are there. And keep reading…
Two Practices to Help With Reactivity
In the meantime, here are two practices that you can do. Both are completely free, and neither takes more than a minute or two.
I don’t remember where I got this first practice, but I’ve seen versions of it everywhere:
It’s called 4-7-8 breathing.
Breathe in for 4 counts. Hold for 7 counts. Breathe out for 8 counts.
Start with 4 of these twice a day. What I read long ago was that if you do 4 of these twice a day, it will lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and improve your digestion and immune function.
One thing I’ve added over the years is another count of 4 at the end. Instead of immediately breathing in, let your breathing rest for 4 counts and then breathe in again.
What I’ve found with this is that it helps take you out of fear and anxiety. You learn that you can just rest without breathing in or out and you won’t die and it won’t even be scary.
The other practice is one that I’ve talked about a lot. This comes originally from the heart math institute and has all the benefits of the first method.
First you focus on your heart, and breathe from your heart as if it’s a lung. As you do, you’ll find your breath getting slower and deeper. That alone reduces cortisol and the flight-flight response, and improves your immune system.
If you do this for just a minute or two, you’ll feel peace. You’ll drop into your center, and feel a sense of anchor, and find your internal sense of power.
Once you have that sense of center or anchor, you can put your attention on the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and gratitude.
Remember that where attention goes, energy flows. When you put your focus on these things, you amplify and strengthen those.
Don’t underestimate the power of doing this. It has a great impact not only on you, but on the world. That energy goes out in ripples and acts as a counterbalance to all the drama.
More than that, it pulls you out of reactiveness into responsiveness.
A Healing Practice
One of the most powerful healing practices I know also uses the breath and pulls you out of reactivity into responsiveness. In fact, if you do it long enough, it will help the very reactive part of the brain, the amygdala, settle down, so that you can respond from higher level thinking. It is a brain-balancing procedure that only takes two minutes to do, but which has profound effects on all levels of health and wellness.
A few years ago, I created a video teaching it. Here is the link.
I hope these help you navigate these very intense and reactive times. Try these practices, and let me know how it’s going in the comments.
If you find yourself in a lot of reactivity and have trouble coming into responsiveness, I love helping people with this. Reach out to me here and let’s talk about how I can help you.