Conditions for Reactivity & Centeredness
Recently I was trying to start a campfire here in the Oregon woods. When I was about thirty minutes into the process with no substantial fire, some critical voices started to creep in about my incompetence as a fire starter. In my defense memories of living in Colorado popped up and reminded me how I never had any trouble starting fires there. I sat back and looked at the incredibly lush green forest around me. Right, it is just that everything here is so wet (unlike the hot dry summers of Colorado). Conditions are not as suitable for a fire to start here. I needed to change my technique.
You can think about reactivity in the same way. So much of reactivity is about the conditions being "right" for it. The important thing to remember here is that the more consistently your needs are getting met, the less reactive you tend to be. You wouldn't make a moral judgment about Oregon wood or Colorado wood because it caught fire easily or not. You understand the bit about conditions. With yourself it can be easy to forget.
When you react you might judge yourself and say things like, "I'm oversensitive", "I'm a mess. Why can't I just keep it together?!", "I am just an angry person." , "I am always hurting others.", "I should be calmer.", etc. You judge and define who you are based on reactivity. In reality you are a constantly changing being completely interdependent with your environment and all other living beings.
You can reconnect with compassion and choice by taking time to reflect on the conditions that give rise to reactivity and those that allow you to stay centered in the midst of difficulty. Simple conditions to reflect on are made up of your decisions around self-care (healthy food, exercise, play, creative outlets, etc.) and your home environment (quiet, order, comfort, etc.). Complex conditions to reflect on might include your work environment, your circle of friends, access to support and healing, patterns of thoughts and beliefs, and family dynamics. Even just taking time to mindfully be aware of how conditions affect you creates a condition for centeredness.
Meeting yourself with compassion you can regard your reactivity, not as a reflection of your goodness, but rather as something which arises from conditions - some simple and others infinitely complex. When you mindfully reflect on these conditions, wisdom can guide you toward a life that you enjoy.
Take a time now to reflect on both a time you remained centered in a difficult situation and a time you reacted. Try to name at least five conditions that preceded each situation.