Juliet the Reactor (Lessons in Not Reacting)



Part One


I have been a reactor for most of my life. I learned to react as child. I did it to protect myself and survive my difficult childhood. Now that I’m an adult, the habit of reacting no longer serves me. Lately I’ve had some lessons in not reacting.


Reacting to me means that I respond to a situation automatically without thinking it through first.


What follows are some of the lessons I’ve received in learning not to react.



No More PD?


In “Patience Please,” I described a situation that occurred in my worklife regarding my professional development. In this situation, I think I was being given a lesson in not reacting.


Did I react? Maybe. As soon as I received the email from the computer system saying that my paid professional development was denied, I emailed everyone involved and informed them that the trip had been canceled.
A better plan might have been for me to wait a few days, contact my administrator, and see what could be done about the situation.


I did react and then I obsessed about the issue all weekend. It was a long holiday weekend too, which was too bad because I ruined it by obsessing.


In the months that followed as this process evolved, I tried to think the process through and reach out to those who could help me. It did work out in the end but it was a long process requiring much patience. There were many times that I wanted to react by either canceling the whole trip and saying forget it or calling the administrators in charge and demanding that they resolve the situation immediately. In the end, I didn’t over-react. Good for me. This was a lesson in not reacting.



Don’t React to That Student 


The next lesson took place in the classroom with the student that I wrote about in “Keeping My Eyes on Christ.” I didn’t react on that one either, but boy I wanted to badly. The old Juliet wanted to get that parent on the phone, bring the student in, and then get on my knees and beg for forgiveness. I wanted to react, but I didn’t. I stopped, prayed, asked God what he wanted me to do, and waited for him to tell me. I waited to respond. It was very difficult for me to do this. It was painful. I obsessed. My gut ached. That is what happens when I feel like I’ve hurt someone.


Here are Juliet’s Codependency Patterns that were at work:

  • Your moods and actions are my fault.
  • If you hurt, I hurt; I think I have to fix you.
  • If you like me, I like me.
  • If you think I’m good, I think I’m good.
  • Your customs and thoughts are always right. I’m always wrong.
  • I am obsessed with making you happy, with saving you.
  • I shower you with favors and pleasures to make you stay.
  • My fear of abandonment and fear of rejection determine how I behave.[1]


All of Juliet’s Feelings were at work here:

  • This is all my fault. I did something wrong.
  • They are right. I am wrong.
  • They are going to abandon me.
  • They are going to reject me.
  • I don’t deserve good things.
  • I am less than.
  • I am ashamed.
  • I’m bad and now everyone knows it. I’ll be alone forever.
  • I’m not good enough to be here.[2]


This is what I learned from my family of origin. I learned that I was responsible for everyone else’s feelings and actions. It was all my fault. So I learned to automatically apologize for everything all the time and take everything in as blame. I don’t have to do that today.

And I did not do that in this situation either.


I started by chanting my mantras:

  • Time out!
  • I will not react.
  • I will wait for God’s guidance.



I repeated them over and over.


Then I waited to respond to the mother’s email until I was sure what God wanted me to say. I asked God to write the email for me and He did. The fact that I never heard back from the parent is immaterial. This was a lesson in not reacting and I passed.


[1] Adapted from the Family of Origin packet materials provided by the Sequoia Recovery Center.

[2] Ibid.

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