Will Smith is an example of why reacting is so harmful

There have been innumerable responses to the slap heard (and seen) around the world and then some, that I know it’s not necessary for me to weigh in and add to the drama.

Yet I can’t help but think about what was happening in those moments, which are not rare by any means, as people lash out all the time – not so publicly, for millions to see but it happens every day, on streets and in homes across the globe.

What it shows is that emotional reactions can happen to the most famous, wealthy, enlightened and powerful people because when it all boils down to it, we are all humans navigating this human experience as best we can. We all fall prey to our most basic impulses. No one is better than another, no matter their celebrity or how many followers they have.

Words are indeed powerful and they can incite in us all kinds of feelings – laughter, anger, even shame.

Our perception of how someone else is feeling can indeed be powerful too, if it triggers in us a powerlessness in the moment (or historically), that can only be managed by an overt overreaction of one’s actual power through an aggressive or violent act.

What I’m talking about is reacting to an emotional trigger that has repercussions that lasts far longer than the actual event.

We’ve all been there – regretting something long after it has passed, replaying it, feeling the shame of it; all because we reacted.

Reactions usually come from historic memories and rarely come from what was said in the moment. Where you are responding to something that happened years ago with the full force of what you wish you had done back then.

However, whenever we’re triggered there is always a moment – what I call an empowered pause, that is very rarely taken.

A pause or more simply a deep breath, where we allow the rational or adult brain to kick in, where instead of reacting, from our mammalian brain/amygdala, which is past memory; you are now responding with the full faculty of higher level or rational thinking.

Just a pause.

It’s enough, to bring you into awareness of what is really happening for you in that moment, to ask yourself: what am I reacting to – this moment or something similar? Is it what was said or how it was said? Is it who was saying it or do they remind me of someone else? Am I offended? Am I or someone I love hurt – physically/emotionally?

When you come into awareness of what you’re feeling, then you can respond, being really clear what triggered you, for example: when you said x, I felt x

Anger as an emotional reaction is okay because it lets us know when we are hurt, when a boundary has been crossed; however there is a difference between behaviour that can be considered aggression or empowered anger.

What we saw in this situation was aggression. What empowered anger looks like, is telling someone they have hurt you and/or ensuring that the same thing doesn’t happen to anyone else. There’s a big difference.

The repercussions of this are mostly unknown, however, I’m sure the feelings of regret, guilt and shame that both parties feel, will last for a long time, which is exactly what happens when we react to our triggers.

What I will say though about what we have all seen is: shamed people, shame people!

It doesn’t make it right, but it does bring our attention to something much deeper: that when we are dealing with the shadow aspects of ourselves, culture or society, there is still much healing work to be done.

Photo by Rajan Alwan on Unsplash

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