A Model for Not Taking the Bait

Taken from the tiny book Practicing Peace by Pema Chodron (2006), this model is a replacement for the reactive habits we form to things that disturb and detract us from our purpose.

Pema describes reaction as the itchy feeling of wanting to snap, of yearning to have our say and bite. Reactivity is the fight element of the brain's fight/flight response in action.  Defending ourselves against a threat to our status, to our beliefs or our choices feels like the right thing to do.  Our brain tells us that this is how we defend a threat.  Yet once the moment passes we realise that we have been led down a path that carries more discomfort and tension than before.  The first step to rewiring reactivity is becoming aware of how easily we are drawn in to take the bait.

Chodron explains the model like this:

  1. Recognise that scratchy itch of wanting to react.
  2. Refrain from scratching it (this takes practice!)
  3. Relax with the underlying urge to scratch.
  4. Resolve to interrupt the momentum like this for the rest of your life.

If we want to make great change in the world, we first have to make great change in ourselves.  If we don't, the pressures and expectations that others put on us as we take our leap into possibility, will suck the energy out of our vision.  To react to that energy sets us back from what we plan to do.  It's exhausting fighting a battle with yourself, much less with those who don't see all the possibilities you do.

The practice of relaxing the urge to scratch is one of giving the moment some space.  Breathing is good.  Not speaking helps.  Waiting for the itchy reaction to pass is what you are aiming for.  Maybe a smile and a nod.  You acknowledge what was said but don't buy into it.  You see the hook with the bait and you choose to swim around it.

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