This topic came up in another post of mine, specifically about the idea of antinomianism. As that post was focused in a different direction, this post will spend a bit more time on the idea of the Master / Slave aspect of mind. This is also Response vs. Reaction aspect of mind.
When a person reacts, they do so as an automatic expression of the emotional body. “Body,” is a good word to describe reaction, as in my personal case, it is my body (and its stress or anxieties) that drives most of my reactions.
Have you felt the stress in body, like I have? Sometimes it’s a tension all through my muscles. My joints are taught and my teeth clenched. There’s an irritation running through my body.
What we are in totality, however, is not just the body. When our body is under stress, irritation or pain, it queues up a reaction mechanism. Someone may bump into us, or linger too close to our personal space, and the body reacts.
“Get off of me,” we might shout. Or we might find ourselves loosing control as we drive in our car on the freeway. These are reactions and the key point of a reaction is this:
A reaction is never under self-control.
Often, people will regret the reaction. “Why did I say that,” we ask ourselves… or “what on earth possessed me to buy that new car?”
Reactions can also be impulse purchases.
Because the individual is not engaged in the creating the reaction within themselves, the reaction is owned by someone or something else. This is pivotal. It is important to understand that when we react, we allow something else to become our temporary Master and we take on the role of Slave.
From my personal life, I’ll share a reaction I had to a co-worker. It was just after the 2016 Presidential elections… Donald Trump was president… and my co-worker scoffed at, “who could dislike the man, he’s a great guy.”
His tone and attitude began to trigger a reaction with me. I was bottling it up, but I mentioned how that Donald Trump had once said, “the way to stop terrorism is to kill their families.” At first he didn’t believe that was a real quote… he looked it up and saw the video of Trump saying it. Then he turned to me and said, “well they deserve to die. After all, who would marry a terrorist?”
The nonchalant way he just dismissed the lives of others, in favor of his candidate was too much. I flew into a rage. I reacted… and there was no stopping me. I went off on him, thinking I was “educating” him… but in reality, I wasn’t in control. If I was in control, I would have thought, “this isn’t the place to discuss this – this is my job and it would be in my best interest to not discuss politics here at work.”
Honestly, I just couldn’t control the things I said. What happened, was that I became the Slave to my co-worker, and they became my Master.
Defined by the Actions of Others
For a reaction to occur, it must have something to mirror. In the example above, I required my co-worker to express an ideology. I then took that expression, and mirrored it back to them in a reaction I wasn’t in control of.
What if my co-worker talked about science instead? What if the co-worker talked about his code problems he was facing? Well I wouldn’t have reacted.
This is why reactions are based on slave-like dependency. Without the other, they can not exist. Reactions are DEFINED by the ACTIONS of OTHERS. That “other” (whatever it is) then is the Master, leading the reaction by the nose.
We are not mere tigers in cages, growling at onlookers. We are sentient, and far greater than a body/brain meat body. Our true sense of self is very expansive and extraordinary. This is why reactions do us a disservice, as they close us off from our true will and thought process, in favor of impulsive decisions and rage filled outbursts.
A response is quite different. A response to someone, or something occurs under the control of will. The striking difference is that now one’s will is engaged, and the true will is expressing a response.
In the example of my co-worker above, a “response” to them would have been clear and without emotional reaction. I might have said, “you know what you just said is quite offensive to many people. I think it best we not discuss politics at work.”
While that might put the co-worker on the defensive (and they might react to me) it is a proper reaction for that situation. It’s logical and rational. Keep in mind, I’m not denying the emotions involved, but all expression (emotion, rationalism, etc.) is expressed UNDER will. My Will. That makes the individual responding, the Master of the situation.
Being more Responsive
How can we be more responsive? This is really the question. Mindfulness in our daily activities is a great starting point. By being mindful, we are aware of each moment as it renders to our body/mind awareness. This is not the normal condition.
Normally we are caught up in our thoughts. Even in the midst of a conversation people lose their attention, and begin focusing on some clever comeback, or something they want to talk about instead. In a moment, we’re out of the present and then we get a shock. Someone jolts us with a shocking comment, or our body stress begins aggregating and we blow off this pressure in an inappropriate way.
Being aware of each moment is a requirement for being in control. This is hard to do, especially consistently. We can improve from where we are currently at by practicing mindfulness and thought control.
Just sitting or standing in a meditative space, listening to our own breathing and letting go of surface thoughts is a utility that can be invoked anywhere, at any time.
Other spiritual practices may help. We can also try and exercise the body – this would help those (like me) who tend to react from stress held inside the body.