How Do You Respond to the Unexpected?

There are many ways to handle the unexpected. Some serve us well and others, not at all. We have “go to” ways of dealing with surprises. Do you react or do you respond? When you feel blindsided do you – add drama, get really quiet and go inside, or kick into high gear and take action, any action? The question to ask yourself is, “Does the way I handle the unexpected serve me or could I explore other ways of responding vs. reacting?

Unexpected things come in many forms. Sometimes the unexpected is a treat, like a rainbow in the mist at a waterfall or a call from a friend you haven’t heard from in a long time. Sometimes the unexpected is startling, like a friend having been in an accident or having a major health crisis. The unexpected may come in the form of a layoff from your job.

No matter the source, how do you react? How would you like to respond? I deliberately used two different words in those questions. It seems to me that reacting is more emotional and responding is more intentional. So, in that context, when you receive the unexpected what is your modus operandi?

There is no one right or wrong way to handle the unexpected. In different circumstances you may react or respond differently. When you notice you are feeling agitated or angry, those might be signals to explore other options. I am not suggesting that you never feel anger or agitation. What I am suggesting is that you look at how those emotions serve you. After the initial reaction, how can you step back and breathe, settle yourself down, and take action that gives you more inner peace. In the moment, that may seem like an enormous task.

Having Aliveness Life Energy, I often react quickly with emotion. I am becoming more adept at recognizing those reactions and allowing myself to step back and see how I would like to actually respond. I step away from the drama going on in my mind, take a few deep breaths, and quiet my mind. And, yes, sometimes that process takes a while. However, when I recognize the reaction and then settle into a response, I find that I am more able to go with the flow or to make decisions that align with what I really want.

As I read what I just wrote, I realized that it actually looks like this. I react – step back and center myself – react – feel like it’s so unfair – re-center – find some inner peace – react – react – settle back in, etc. It’s not a linear process and it’s one that takes being focused in the moment and letting go of the unexpected that created the upset.

Byron Katie says, “Confusion is when you argue with what is.” If you apply that to my process, the reaction I continue to experience is usually based in wanting it to be other than what is. I call it my “wishing and hoping” strategy, which by the way, is totally ineffective. When you get what is, you can choose how to respond rather than being thrown about by wishing and hoping things were different.

I have discovered that I get immediate feedback viscerally from how I’m feeling rather than what I’m thinking. For me, I’ll feel it in my gut – that feeling of anxiety and unease or anger. Then I notice what thoughts I’m thinking and go between letting it go and feeling betrayed. I settle down and weeks later might get tripped up by that feeling of being blind-sided. So, I start the process over and over. One of the keys for me is to not judge myself for not responding without upset and anger in the beginning. 

Consider the difference between the reactions of “Oh my gosh, this is horrible, the worst thing that could have happened!” and “OK, I”m not liking this and now what am I going to do?” Sometimes we get caught in the drama, the injustice, the emotion of an event and can’t see how we could shift things. How do you respond to the unexpected? Does it work for you? If not, what might you do differently?

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