Emotional Well-Being: Response Vs Reaction


How are you feeling today? Are you being honest with yourself about your emotions and about what causes you to feel happy or sad or irritated or angry? Do you know, what are your triggers?

Here’s why that matters. Until you are clear about what triggers you to experience these feelings, you will not be in a position to plan a strategy for managing yourself in spite of what you are feeling.

Many people like to assume that they have no control over their emotions.  They blame others and accuse the other person or the situation of being responsible for the way they are feeling and the way they behaved as a result. It is important to point out at this stage that we have a choice, every time, in how we behave in any situation.

In addition, while it is true that our feelings, in reaction to any stimuli, may be largely beyond our control, it is incorrect to say that our responses or behaviours are also in the same category.  They are not.

We all have a choice about how we respond in any given situation.  There is a difference between response and reaction.  One way of looking at the situation is to use a model that can help you to break down an event and think about it in segments such as Triggers, Reaction and Response.

Let’s say you experience an event, like you lose your favorite scarf, you get soaked by a sudden downpour, you get fired or your relative passes away. Each one of these events would represent a trigger. Something that could cause you to have a feeling about the situation. Your feelings are your reactions. The thoughts that are going through your mind are also part of your reaction. They can be instantaneous and strong.

However, it is possible for you to moderate your response so that your behaviours or words towards someone else do not inflict unnecessary harm or cause some other negative outcome.  It is possible for you to acknowledge the emotions and the negative thoughts that you are having as a result. It is also possible for you to decide to change those thoughts and as a result change the way that you look at or feel about the given situation.

It may be very difficult to get beyond the pain of losing a loved one. However, you may get to the point where your perspective shifts from focusing on what you have lost and start to think about what you have gained from knowing the person. Therefore, even though you are still feeling loss or sadness, you are in a mindset where you can behave or respond to others in a manner that puts you both at ease.  This example is intended to demonstrate the fact that we have the power to choose how we respond,  in spite of what our feelings or reactions may have been.

Emotional well-being is about having a deep understanding of ourselves and being in a position to accept who we are, give ourselves space to find fulfillment and wholeness, while not violating the rights of others to have the same experience in their lives. It’s not about perfection or any predetermined image of what wellness looks like. Instead it requires an individual journey of self discovery, awareness and acceptance.


Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance.  She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.  For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live



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