Reactions are interesting things. They can only truly happen once – every emotion following them is built upon a memory of the event. We all have an initial reaction to things – some people cover theirs up, some people let it all out emotionally, some people simply have a “meh” and move on.
How we react to things – is this in our control? I would like to think it is. I’m not advocating not reacting, or suppressing reactions to the extent that we become cold and frigid, uncaring. But I think it is a very interesting concept – it is emotion combined with instinct. A bear walks across our path in the woods – we have a reaction. Someone tells us they love us – we have a reaction. Our car skids across the road on ice – we have a reaction. Deep down in the limbic part of the brain, most of the physical parts of reaction are engaged – adrenaline, tears, laughter. That’s the first thing to hit us. The second is our emotional response – fear, sadness, joy.
Next up is usually a mixture of learned behaviour and patterns that we have created over our lifetimes. From quite an early age, we are told and we learn not to let all of our emotions and reactions run riot. We can’t have what we want – the five year old has a tantrum. The parent (rightly so, in my opinion) tells the child to stop. We begin to learn to control our desires as we separate ourselves further from the parental embrace that gives us everything we need – the difference between desire and need is established.
In our learned behaviour, we have created all sorts of attachments to memories and feelings that will colour our future reactions. We have been hurt by someone in the past – when a partner says they have something they want to talk to us about, we may instantly jump to the conclusion that they want to end the relationship – our initial reaction is insecurity. It may or may not be well off the mark. If we can let go of these attachments, then we can simply react accordingly to each situation. How much smoother would life run if that were the case?
Again, this is not a suppression – that does us absolutely no good at all. Through meditation and mindfulness, gained through meditation (Zen techniques and philosophy), we learn to observe ourselves, our thought patterns and our behaviours. We learn that we react in different ways to different things, and noticing the reactions enables us to shift slightly out of our pattern in order to create more harmonious ones with the rest of the world.
Druidry is about connection. If we are truly connected, our reactions to things would be much different than what they usually are. If we realise that we are connected to the person who cut us up on the motorway, our reaction wouldn’t be filled with anger – there might be an initial adrenaline surge as we hit the brakes, avoid any possible accidents, the initial swearing – but afterwards we don’t have to get angry. That person is made of the same stuff we are, existing on the same planet, breathing the same air, having joys and difficulties in their own lives. We can simply acknowledge that and move on with our own lives, thus changing our reaction to events. We avoid any accident and continue driving, concentrating on our own path through the lanes. We aren’t suppressing any emotion, because there isn’t an emotional attachment to suppress anymore. We can’t attach to the reaction either, because it has been and gone.
Acknowledging that we cannot control other people has a great deal to do with our attachment to our responses. I can try to manipulate my husband, but I ultimately have no control over him whatsoever, and vice versa. When we realise that, everything becomes simplified. We don’t have to become passive – we can still make our point, without becoming upset that the other person doesn’t agree with it. We can still protest on Wall Street. We can work to make the world a better place with care and compassion for all living things. We just don’t have to get so attached to it.
In essence then, is the “meh” attitude one worth having? Next time someone upsets me, I’m going to give it a try. I’ll simply say “meh” and get on with my own life, for it is the only one that I can change for good or ill. I’ll let you know how I get on.
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Perhaps the secret to the ideal attitude lies within the relationship between attachment and connection? I’d be interested in updates as to how you manage in the future 🙂
Interesting! In Zen thinking, attachment to anything causes sufferering, however, we can become so unattached that we appear cold and uncaring – we mustn’t lose sight of compassion, or our connectedness to everything. x