The English language makes a difference between reacting and responding to a person or situation. I find that immensely valuable.
Let’s say somebody yells at you (it doesn’t matter why. Usually it isn’t anyway the “real” reason). Here is how you react: You either yell back, or you withdraw (physically and/or emotionally.) Does that help to resolve the problem, gain new insights, restore harmony between the two of you, or help you to get to a place of inner peace?
No, it doesn’t. The situation is stuck in a bad place or even escalates. Negative emotions abound, and it doesn’t matter if they are expressed openly. This is because a mere reaction is mindless and automatic.
Now imagine you respond instead of reacting. Somebody yells at you. You do have this urge to react (see above), but you resist it, just for a moment. There is a pause, an opening, and you realize, if only for the briefest moment, that you have a choice. Yes, you can yell back or withdraw – but there are, and that feels so good, other options.
For example: You stay calm and centered in yourself in spite of the physical and emotional noise. Or you “lean into” your pain of being attacked that way and accept your emotions and the situation as a whole completely. Or you hold the space emotionally for that yelling person, with kindness and compassion, because you know he is acting out his own deep pain. Or you decide that this relationship is not going to work after all and do walk away, but with your head high and your personal integrity intact.
Look out for this opening next time you are triggered by someone or something. And even if you choose, at this moment, on that day, to just react again, you will have experienced the difference, and next time, you might actually respond instead of react. It’s powerful and healing.