i often meet the belief that people have more control over their reactions than over the actions of others; i believe this promotes a backward social system, where we expect others to manage their own feelings as we feel expected to manage ours—this appears to give the people who are good at managing a feeling of free reign over the less able.
i try to promote a system—and this is my compass in life—in which we are free to express and inhabit our reactions, regardless of what they are, and are required by compassion to inhibit our actions, knowing that the smallest thing might hurt someone else as much as anything as ever hurt us.
when people are honest about their reactions, i often see the private expression of distate for overreaction. but what is overreaction? when are we over-reacting? i’m not at home with this concept. we do not share one another’s situations or histories, and this creates all the room in the world to understand that it is not a lack of growth on some shared skin-thickening trajectory that causes a greater reaction in someone else than it would in you. more importantly, failing to honour your lack of sameness with someone else by suggesting that they could be more like you, thicker skinned like you, is a stymieing point to taking compassion more fully on board in yourself, and to extending love, understanding, and attentiveness to others.
- We are free to express and inhabit our reactions regardless of what they are.
- We are required by compassion to inhibit our actions.
…would we not then be free to release our inhibitions habitually upon the notion of inhabiting some reaction? That, I think, would be the problem.
This is not terribly far from my thinking though. I really like the word ‘inhabit’ in this context. I think being able to inhabit a reaction in front of others is absolutely something we should be able to feel free to do. I will sometimes inhabit happy, butthurt or placid satisfaction, as we all surely do. Further more, I think that for myself it’s an act of authorship and I demand the right to make artistic decisions in my work.
On top of that, I get to decide whether or not I keep doing it if the others don’t understand. Perfect meaning is not always necessary. There are reasons why messing with someone else’s inner state at high frequencies might be done. Putting someone in a confused state could be a good way to express confusion in certain circumstances. It gets hairy for me when I start thinking about why I would want to put someone in an aggressive state or a defensive state. My reasons for continuing to do that to someone might not be recognized as positive or useful to the person to which I am talking. If I want to keep talking to them then a change in tactics might be something I’ll consider. If I had to come up with commandments I think I would want it to look something like this…
- To inhabit our reactions in expression to others and ourselves is a graceful act.
- To inhibit our actions at a time when it might cause unwanted pain to others and ourselves is a graceful act.
- The art of the moment calls for liberal experimentation with both!