Drowning in Emotion Part 2: Are You Reacting or Responding?

Dr. Bill Spaine

Have you already deciphered this metaphor regarding relationships? When faced with an unthinkably anxious situation, one in which we believe that our well-being is threatened or that we stand to lose the most important person or things in our life–and this may feel like losing everything, the common response for most people is to panic. The unfortunate reality is that, when in a panic, we are not at our best selves; much less, we may not even be in our right minds. When supremely afraid, we make wretchedly poor decisions, if we are making decisions at all rather than merely reacting.

When we are at our best selves, we feel, think, and decide–then do. When in a panic, we feel and do: no well-measured response from our prefrontal neocortex, no evidence of our years of education and cultivation, no awareness of our morality or our Christian values or of Buddha Mind. We react rather than respond. None of the qualities for which we would like to be known color, influence, or regulate our behavior when we believe we are drowning.

Next: Closeness Brings Anxiety and Anxiety Can Make Us Selfish

Copyright © 2011 William E. Spaine, Psy.D.