A story about reactions
So it’s about 20 years ago and I’m 12/13. I am lying on my bed having a conversation with myself and I project into the future — to the time I am in a relationship. In this projection, I allowed my mind explore many things and in one of such explorations, my wife cheated on me and I was broken. I felt depressed and I was like “my heart can’t take this”. In this imagination of mine, I became sad and a shadow of the person I used to be. I said (in my imagination), this hurts so bad and blab la…
Still in that imagination I started to think. Sex is amazing (so I hear — remember I’m imagining this at 12), the feeling of physical bonding with another person that you like or love has to feel good. And then I ask myself. What makes me feel I have the right to tie another person’s happiness to me in a way that when they are happy without me, I feel broken?
This got me thinking for a while. If she cheated because we were having issues, or to get back at me, or for any of those negative things, then sure I already felt bad before it happened and things were already not great. But I thought to myself — it makes no sense to be mad at another person’s sex unless it was forced. I started to see how it was much better (for my heart) to be un-phased by such matters.
Right there and then, in my imagination, I said if my wife ever had sex with anyone else, I wouldn’t care — I re-acted the imagination and changed my reaction.
The conclusion here is that, I freed myself emotionally that day.
Today, I’m married (6 years so far) and the conversation still comes up. “What do you mean you don’t get jealous and you would be okay if your wife had sex with someone else?” Well I didn’t say I would just laugh about it, but it won’t be a cause of heartbreak as long as she did it willingly. I know I’m crazy — but I’m happier for it.
Reaction are learned
Our reactions in life as mostly learned from the reactions we observed while growing up. When our parents were not happy with us, they frowned and then, because we want them to be happy, we re-examine the thing we did and try to not d it again. In that moment, we learn that there is a reaction for everything and when we are placed in those scenarios, we will react as we have learned to react. Do this make sense?
There are parents who react with the fist when they tell their children to do something and it’s not done. They react with the belt if the child mistakenly drops a plate and while the child hates every beat of it (see what I did there?), the child will learn that reaction and pass it down when he has children of his own — just because that’s what he learned.
There’s another example. In The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Amy are about to get married in the city court or so and then Sheldon says he won’t go through with it, that he wants a “real” wedding. In that moment, they have managed to sell the idea that what happens in court is not “real” and that “real” is the wedding bells, exotic/well decorated space and great food. So a person who has learned that reaction will smirk the next time he or she hears a person is going to get married in city hall. Get my point?
In Nigeria, being gay is a sin and because of that narrative, a Nigerian’s default reaction to LGBTQI is that of disdain, they did not plan to react that way — they have learned it over the years from those who were there before them.
I remember the first time I went to French camp in Badagry, Lagos and I was served bread with boiled eggs, I made a “disgust” face because I had never known such a combo. I always had bread with fried eggs or, if there were going to be boiled eggs, there would be sardines as well so seeing this was incomplete and before I could catch myself, I made that face and it made the chef feel bad. I know I’m sorry — but it was an unconscious reaction.
When we react to things, in our minds we are correct. Our reactions are always right to us but in the real sense of things, reaction are mostly wrong — we react (I repeat) because we have learned the reaction and not because it makes sense to react in that way.
An instance — there are guys who just believe that they are supposed to hate their sisters’ boyfriends and let’s not even get in to the Mother in –law phenomenon. You’d see two friends getting along and as soon as one starts liking the sister of his friend, chaos. Does it make any sense? No! Does it happen? Oh yes!
Reactions always seem right to us. Very rarely you’d hear a person say I reacted wrongly. This is because, to react, something has triggered you and you believe you have no choice in your reaction. But I dare say you do. How? I’m glad you asked.
RE — ACT
To evolve, we need to revisit the way we react to things and why we react in those ways. I learned a while back that another person having consensual sex had no right to annoy me or break me. I learned this because I re-wrote my own internal conversation. That is where the secret lies.
We need to re-write those conversations in our head that make us react to things the way we do.
I had to tell myself that there is nothing gross about bread and boiled eggs just because I wasn’t used to it. I had to tell myself that there is no need to be freaked out by a man kissing another man even though the Bible makes it seems the way it does (for my own good). I had to see that the default welcome for my sister’s boyfriend should not be hate.
Finally- last example. A man would come out of his gate and go against traffic because it was shorter to where he bought gas. His son was with him in the car as he made these trips. One day, the man had a change of heart and decided to go the right way so he came out of his gate and proceeded the right way. His son was in the car and he quickly reacted with “dad we are going the wrong way”… I hope you get the point!
We need to re-act the way we react with the goal of being happier, more centered beings.