​What is my life like if I respond automatically to everything that happens to me?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

I have heard people say “I am very good when things go well, but I respond very badly when they do not.”

I understand by this, that people who say it, take it for granted that they react according to the stimuli they receive.  If things are nice, everything is fine, if they are unpleasant, they react very badly.  And you will say:  “Precisely, that is normal!  It is what everyone does.  Or nearly everyone.

According to this “normality” you accept that you live by reacting to what happens and based on what it looks like.  There does not appear to be much leeway on this, because we recoil in the face of something that we consider to be unpleasant and we smile if we like it.  Not much baggage is needed on this journey.  The humblest creature can do it.

If evolution has gone to so much trouble to permit the development of an animal that is as versatile as the human being, in my opinion, we should be capable of more than a dog or a snake.  When someone insults me, I may feel offended and react in the same vein or with something similar, but I might also ask myself what that person was going through, since they seem to have some kind of problem, however, I do not need to react automatically simply because the person is in a bad mood at that moment. When faced with any event, I can react automatically or respond in some other way, or rather, not react to the situation (insult, offence, anger, pressure, abuse) but give a response that does not depend on the stimulus, but on what I decide at that moment.  But in order to decide, I need to pause, pay attention to my automatic impulses and decide to respond logically without letting myself be borne along by the situation.  As we saw at the start, the normal thing is to live on the basis of automatic reactions, like in the example.  A result of this is to feel constantly beaten up emotionally by what is happening around or inside us.  Life is transformed into a game of ping pong with reactions that are not well thought through.  This happens because we do not pay attention to the existence of these automatic reactions, that all living beings are endowed with, in order to protect themselves, and it seems to us that this is the only way that we can live.  However, there are others that go beyond being aware of the automatic reactions and enable us to choose an appropriate response.  This being aware of ourselves, is undoubtedly due to our most evolved human abilities.  But it is necessary to be alert, because fierce self-protective reactions continue to stalk us, like a lion, and they are so quick that they do not give us time to see them and to choose an alternative that is calmer and more suited to what the situation requires.  Since we includeas standard (like cars) the ability to be self-aware, it would be a shame to use automatic reactions when that is not necessary and tocomplicate our lives with fights about reactions, to see who is the strongest, who shouts most, who has most and who can do most.  If you do not want to live to the sound of this ping pong of reactions, you have to make a conscious choice to respond differently, since we are only aware if we decide to be.  Curious, but there it is.  If I am not, I only behave in a reactive way, in a defensive mode and that way ends in conflicts, whether they are personal, social or international.  It is better to choose to be aware and to opt for another way of “being human”.  It is in your hands.