Under reacting makes for a great spiritual practice because it helps control one’s temper and reminds a person that they are not number one, nor do they need to be number one. Anyone can react to anything, but to hold back and choose to under react, that takes courage and self-discipline.
When we overreact, it comes with a host of unspoken beliefs: The world should go my way. I am more deserving. I can be in control. I am right. You are wrong. You matter less than me. You should do it my way. All of these beliefs are false beliefs. Yet when we react mindlessly or overreact, we act as if they carry the weight of truthfulness.
Under reacting requires self-control. To achieve this self-control, we can mentally remind ourselves, “I am under reacting.” We take a deep breath and think about what kind of person we want to be. Do we want to barrel down the highway angrily, labeling others as incompetent? Do we want to carry that kind of toxicity and put that kind of energy into how we exist on this planet? What a difference our commute would have, if we set aside our beliefs and said, I am going to drive behind this person and work on myself; I for this period of time choose to under react. Now instead of flipping the bird or cursing, or driving aggressively, we observe our self and our surroundings. How is our drive and our morning different because we drove mindfully?
We can underreact with children. Instead of getting into power struggles, can we learn a better way to interact? Instead of yelling and screaming, could we use the power of praise to get children to do what we ask? Sometimes parents can make everything have the same level of importance, and they end up reacting strongly to everything. Ask yourself, do I want a good relationship with my children? Will overreacting get the result I am seeking? Is a reaction even necessary?
It is easy to spank and threaten because these require no self-control on the part of the parent. It is much more difficult to figure out what will work with each child. One may respond to praise, another may respond to choices, another to incentives. Instead of using one tool from your parental tool box, why not learn as many techniques as you can?
Why not practice under reacting to things that are little, so your children can notice the change when something is big? If everything results in a spanking or a yelling fit, your child will soon conclude that you are unreasonable and will do their own thing because even at a small age, children can figure out your response makes no sense. If you judiciously under react you will teach them how to navigate life successfully. Children learn by doing and be seeing. If all you do is habitually overreact, how will they learn self-efficacy?
Here are some ways to practice under reacting. When you are driving, decide to follow someone for three minutes who is driving under the speed limit. Observe your thoughts and feelings. Distract yourself by recalling something pleasant. Notice that three minutes have passed. Are you closer to your destination? Is your blood pressure low? Are you smiling?
When your children don’t listen right away can you pause, and praise them the minute they take one step in the direction you asked? Does the thirty seconds you waited really affect the outcome or were you previously just exercising control over them because you could? If previously you would grab them and yell and spank, how do you feel for having waited a few seconds? Which kind of parent do you want to be?