Follow Your Spontaneity, Not Your Reactivity

It's okay to be different

Imagine with me these three scenarios. Someone cuts you off on the freeway, almost causing you an accident. In a fit of anger, you slam on the gas, and start dangerously tailgating him to “punish” him.

On a lunch break, you happen to see ahead of you on the sidewalk, your partner enjoying a lively arm-in-arm conversation with someone of the opposite sex. Like a rush, you feel a flush of jealous suspicion.

You’re awoken at 2am by a very loud clashing sound just outside your bedroom window. Startled, you jump up, grab the pepper spray, and oh so very slowly creep to the window curtain to peer out.

What’s common to each of these scenarios? Several things. Your responses were instantaneous. There wasn’t choice.

Although spontaneous expression is a hallmark of authenticity, not all immediate expression is spontaneous. These scenarios reflect emotional reactivity, not spontaneity.

The person who cut you off was rushing to the hospital to be beside his wife who had just been admitted to the ER. But you had been cut off in traffic too many times before. Your partner walking arm-in-arm had just run into a dear college friend whom she hadn’t seen in years. But you’ve been cheated on before. And what did you see peering outside your bedroom window? Buster, your neighbor’s dog, eating leftovers from the tumbled garbage can – not an intruder as happened once before.

Reactivity simply is an emotional conditioned response. Like the stimulus/response training of Pavlov’s dog which was taught to salivate at the sound of a metronome, so many of our seemingly spontaneous actions are automatic reactions learned from past experiences.

Reactivity is simply a chain of brain neurons which when excited emit an automatic behavior. However, authentic spontaneity is the freedom of Being. True spontaneity expresses itself as a freedom from enchainment by the past, thereby allowing any form of expression to arise.

Perhaps the most common reactivity we experience are the arguments which result when others push our “buttons”. Our flailing in anger is no cause for pride in spontaneity. Then and at any time we might be reactive, we are not being “true to ourselves”, but rather true to our conditioning.

No, we are not doomed forever to be imprisoned by our reactive patterns. The more we simply observe our patterns, and learn to identify them as they arise, the more free we become.

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