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Awakenings: In Stress, We Often Choose Action Over Reflection

June 23, 2020

“Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are discovering a lot about how people react and adapt to change during these challenging times by listening closely to the narratives emerging. We are finding much wisdom and many insightful perspectives. We also see and acknowledge that most everyone is feeling some form of stress, whether it’s financial, emotional, physical or otherwise. 

And when we’re stressed, we humans tend to revert to patterned ways of being to endure it. We revert back to these patterned ways of thinking, acting and feeling that sometimes don’t serve us very well. We understand this as we’ve been studying people’s internal experience under stress for more than 15 years.

One part of what we’ve researched are the dimensions of experience people tend to rely on most under such pressure. We look at three dimensions of our internal experience, best expressed as head, heart and gut or thinking, feeling and wanting.

And what we’ve learned over those 15-plus years from data on more than 20,000 people is that when we are under stress, we tend to rely on one of those dimensions over the others.

And what we’ve learned over those 15-plus years from data on more than 20,000 people is that when we are under stress, we tend to rely on one of those dimensions over the others.  Though ideally, we would rely equally on all dimensions of our experience, the one more people rely on most — according to all that data — is our wants. In other words, when we’re under stress, what will make most of us feel better is to DO something.  Maybe anything.

Our go-to response under stress is to do something, even if it’s the wrong thing. What we’re noticing now is people’s tendency to want to do, to act, and quickly. People are rushing to decide, to choose, to act before stepping back and really considering the larger picture of this ever-changing environment. That’s our pattern.

Our research shows that about 60% of us tend to lean toward acting, overthinking and feeling when we’re under stress rather than the more mindful choice of existing in the discomfort of non-doing while gathering information.

This Awakenings series may actually have come from that same wants orientation. The instinct to act, to say, “OK, I could do something. Maybe it’ll be something that’s helpful for other people.”  So, not to say all acting is bad or wrong.  It’s just that we want to be mindful, taking in all of the information available to us from all aspects of our experience, particularly under stress.

What about you? What are you thinking, feeling and wanting in these times? What have you acted quickly on that might have been different with more consideration first? We’d love to hear from you.


P.S. If you’d like to take a step back with us, reflect and make meaning to begin to transform your experience, sign up to receive the Awakenings series along with a free guided journal page to your email every week. Sign up here.

Read More from the Awakenings Series:

Awakenings Amid a Quarantine: Reconnecting with Our True Selves

Awakenings: What does that mean that “I need help?”

Awakenings: From Monotony to Mindfulness

Awakenings: Facing Ourselves – Maybe for the First Time

Awakenings: Same Scenery, Different Perspective

Awakenings: Still Ambitious, but with Boundaries

Posted in: Awakenings|Heal The Divide

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