Do you know the difference between a reaction and a response?
Consider a marionette which is a puppet manipulated by the puppet master or marionetteer.
When the strings are pulled, the marionette reacts in a passive and dependent manner.
It has no choice but to do the bidding of its puppet master because it is only just a puppet.
Whenever any string is pulled, a predictable reaction follows.
This is stimulus-response psychology at an extremely primitive level.
For each and every stimulus, a corresponding response follows.
However, in strict linguistic terms, the response is actually a stimulus-bound reaction.
The reaction is field-dependent upon a specific stimulus which triggers a corresponding specific reaction.
There is nothing left to the imagination in this equation because the reaction is essentially bereft of choice.
With choice, one is typically free to choose what one chooses and also how one arrives at one’s choice.
With no choice one is not free to choose what one chooses and also not free how one’s choice is made.
Let us reconsider our marionette but with the power of say.
It now can choose to say yea or nay any time, night or day and then choose to act accordingly and consistently.
The marionetteer pulls a string and the marionette without reacting says, “Hmm, let me consider my options.”
A knee-jerk passive-dependent reaction is always an option.
So, too, is a thoughtful response which emanates out of the marionette’s own deliberate self-agency.
Whenever someone tries to pull its strings, it has a choice to surrender its power of say or to assert it.
Surrender commits the puppet to a puppet position.
Assertion commits the puppet to be responsible and accountable in service of being its own puppet master.
Reaction or response is almost always a choice, but only so long as it really and truly is a choice.
Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor
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