Brainhacks: Responding Instead of Reacting

Your brain works in programming.

If it’s heavily storming outside, your inner programming may tell you it’s not worth it to run to the grocery store. If someone is following you, your inner programming will likely tell you to run or hide. If you are in a high stress situation, there’s a good chance that your inner programming will ask you to avoid the stress or to distract yourself from it.

That’s how your deep inner brain works. The reptilian part of your brain in addition to the limbic system of your brain are responsible for keeping you alive. They are very powerful are they prioritize survival above all else.

Although this was very useful in a pre-civilized world, where there were dangers at every corner in the jungle, the utility of living in a reaction based state is dwindling.

Now, if you’re plagued with a lot of work either at school or your job, your body may ask you to ignore the stress. It may want you to sit around and watch hours of TV instead, because your brain knows that you will survive with less stress.

Your old brain is the one that pushes you into your comfort zone. It’s the one that makes you yell at people who make you angry, it’s the one that makes you hate people you are jealous of, and it’s the one that is responsible for most of your triggered reactions.

Let’s say someone frustrates you. How are you supposed to deal with the person?

Maybe your reactive state wants you to yell at them, dismiss them, or even hate them. Your reactive brain is there to give you quick responses in times that require immediate decisions regarding your safety.

If you live in the modern world, you know that it’s mostly your reactions that get you into trouble. Whether it’s with other people or with yourself.

Philosophical minds like Jiddu Krishnamurti and Eckhart Tolle will tell you that responding to circumstances instead of reacting to them is the proper way to live life.

It doesn’t matter if your natural instincts are to use anger, to run away, to hide, or to even cry; relying on instincts will not get you as far as distancing yourself from your thoughts and feelings.

Instead of letting your subconscious mind run the show, take a second, take a deep breath, and evaluate your choices. If someone cuts in front of you in traffic, don’t just slam your horn and start to aggressively tail them.

Take a second to process your emotion. Take another deep breath. You will see the urge to retaliate against that person like a suggestion on a TV screen instead of a mandate by your inner brain. When you see that urge instead of directly acting through it, you have opened up different choices.

It’s through these choices that you discover who you really are on the inside. Your impulses are just what your brain has learned to keep you safe, but they don’t necessarily mean that they’re the best way for you to live.

Your brain is as complex the universe is vast. There are several different sections in your brain responsible for different things. Every time you use a certain part of your brain, say you are thinking about time, that part of your brain lights up on an EEG.

The brain works in patterns, so if there’s a place in your brain responsible for handling issues with your family, there will also be connections to other parts such as love, security, and possibly frustration. All of these sections will then light up together when you think of your family. 

Your reactive state will rely on these patterns. If you get frustrated every time you deal with your mother, your brain will start to light up your frustration center every time your brain senses a situation dealing with your mother.

If you rely on your reactive state, you will almost always respond to your mother with frustration. If you take a second to evaluate these emotions and your situation, you will likely see that there is no use in being frustrated at the moment. Maybe you will see that your frustration is coming from somewhere that has nothing to do with the present moment.

Once you catch yourself, you begin to build distance from your thoughts. The more you do this, the better you get. It’s the same type of mental discipline that Zen Buddhists and monks will teach you to have.

When you are above your emotions and thoughts, you will find ecstasy in every single moment. You will know that you are always doing what you know to be right, and you will no longer be slave to your own programming.

It’s a simple psychological trick, but it’s ramifications are endless. You can literally change your entire life for the better if you practice this one simple mental hack.

See the following video for more insight, and remember respond, don’t react.