Responsiveness vs. reactiveness, and purposefulness
The ninth component of spiritual health is self efficacy and the cardinal sin # 9 is helplessness and playing the victim. The spiritual practice to mitigate helplessness and playing the victim is striving to be responsive instead of reactive, and to develop a sense of purposefulness.
The concept that is helpful in considering this spiritual practice is “agency.” To what extent does a person feel in control of and in charge of their own life? Do they feel like a victim or do they feel that they can control themselves in such a way as to influence their relationships and circumstances?
Often people are reactive, their buttons get pushed, they fly off the handle. If you ask a person who is highly reactive what makes them tick, they can’t tell you. Their ability to observe their own functioning is impaired or appears to be nonexistent. They are easily provoked and their goat is very easily gotten. The opposite of being reactive is being responsive meaning that the person can back off, calm down, get things in perspective, develop a level of objectivity, and formulate a response that is deliberate and purposeful. Being responsive is taking responsibility for one’s own level of emotional arousal and being aware to then consider the best way of managing the situation.
Reactivity vs. responsiveness can be measured in percentages. What percentage of the time does the person manage things in a responsive way compared to a reactive way; none of the time, 50% of the time, 80% of the time, 100% of the time?
Jesus and Buddha were self aware, self actualized, self efficacious, enlightened human beings who were responsive 100% of the time. Most of us probably don’t achieve much more than 80 - 90% of the time. Working on becoming more responsive and less reactive is a developmental process which we intuitively label as “maturity.” The more responsive and the less reactive a person acts, the more “mature” we say the person is.
As a person becomes more responsive, they also become more purposeful. Their behavior is no longer a random response to triggering by external circumstances. When distressed a person can ask, “What is the purpose of this relationship? What is the purpose of this interaction?”
In situations where we feel emotionally aroused, it is helpful to take emotional distance so that we can get things in perspective and then decide the best way to proceed. When a person develops this spiritual way of seeing they are more self efficacious.