Most people have one of two default reactions to stress: they either go into avoidance or conflict mode (you can think of them as similar to “fight or flight” responses). You probably already know which group you belong to, but let’s get a little more specific in case you’re unsure.
People who have a pattern of avoidance usually respond to stress by feeling isolated or helpless. They often feel like a victim to outside circumstances, and they have an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Common thoughts might include: “What’s the point?” “No one cares what I think.” “I should have known better.” Thoughts like these lead to exhaustion, shame, and jealousy, which can cause people to shut down and stop trying.
Those who default to conflict mode often blame others or blame the world for their problems. Some common emotions associated with conflict energy are anger, annoyance, frustration, resentment, and defensiveness. As you can imagine, these emotions often lead to judgment, confrontation, blame, or aggression.
Does one of these sound familiar? It’s completely normal to fall into one of these patterns, and there are actually benefits to each (otherwise, why would you have established the pattern in the first place?). When you’re in avoidance mode, you’re protecting yourself from harm and allowing yourself to receive others’ sympathy and support. Defaulting to conflict energy means you’re willing to stand up for yourself and get a lot done on your own.
But we’re willing to bet that these reactions cause far more harm than good in your life. So it’s time to be honest with yourself – how well has this default pattern worked for you in the past? How do you want to react to stress instead?
What would it look like if your default reaction were to feel compassion? Or to look for the opportunity in any situation? Try out a new reaction this week.
Kristen & Rachel