How I Overcome Reactivity


I have spent the last year consciously working on my "shadow". As I am human, there is always "work" in ourselves to be examined, reflected on and hopefully used as tools for growth to becoming a deeper and better person. Getting to know your shadow involves becoming intimate with the parts of you that you may not like and instead of ignoring them and only staying positive, you have to dip down and in, to feeling what may make us uncomfortable. Much of it is simply really getting to know past learned limiting behaviours or thought patterns. For me meditation and yoga helps me recognise when they are influencing my behaviour or decisions and causing me to be reactive rather than present.

To implement change in our daily life, a big part is first realising when we are being reactive or when our "shadow" is in the drivers seat.

To do this I have become familiar with the signs. For me they include:

  • Disproportionate response to something and being completely over dramatic.

  • Sudden influx of overwhelming emotions.

  • Loss of connection with the other person. (I will feel disconnected to my husband,children or whoever it is I am reacting to.)

  • Having no empathy for whom we are being reactive with and instead may feel an aversion to them.

  • Refusal for self-reflection in the moment.

  • Attachment to being right.

It has been incredibly helpful for me and I encourage you to practise acknowledging the arrival of these symptoms of reactivity and say to yourself  "I'm being reactive". At first it is rather hard, especially when you are in the midst of being reactive!

For me it is helpful if I say what I am actually feeling, not what I am thinking. To be able to do this effectively you must shift your attention from your mind to your body, otherwise your thoughts will obscure what is going on deeper down. Breathe and feel into your heart and belly

If you practice yoga, your asana practice offers a good opportunity to become better at recognising where, when, and how you get caught in or swept away by reactivity. Sometimes we breeze through our yoga on autopilot, not paying attention to each movement, each breathe and we miss it. We have a blissful opportunity with each posture to be really present but if we slip into what we have "always done" we can get injured or don't receive the full potential of a posture.

When we feel stiff or have aversions to postures and repeat "I can't do that."  or simply skip asansas, we often miss the ones that we need the most. Or to satisfy our egos we may push ourselves in unhealthy manners because we are attached to "achieving" even if it doesn't serve us at that time, we lose connection to the true healing power that yoga, that life, can hold for each of us.

Patanjali tells us in chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra verses 12 through 16, that abhyasa, continuous applied effort, coupled with vairagya, the willingness to observe experience without getting caught in reactivity to it, will lead to freedom from suffering. Thats what Im talking about!