Knee-Jerk Reactions

The littlest bit of information about a person or a situation can change our perspective, entirely. When we stop to think about it, this seems obvious and right. We may feel an immediate resonance with the statement and think of all the times that this has proven to be true. We might even feel that this sentiment is part of our wisdom and an example of how we walk in the world. And yet, we all make snap judgments. Sometimes, this is a necessary trait for our emotional and societal survival; and other times, it’s just our assumptions getting the better of us.

Regardless of our vigilance and good intentions, we all have moments when we react unfavorably and, perhaps, unfairly. We yell at other drivers. We complain about a rude grocery clerk. We jump to the worst conclusion about someone we dislike or mistrust. It happens to the best of us: we react without having all of the information. But here’s the thing: many times we’re right!

If we stopped to gather every bit of information about every person and every situation we encountered, we’d be too overloaded to act on anything. Past experience allows us to make quicker decisions based on the most likely outcomes. It keeps us from making the same mistakes. It also helps us to evaluate the emotions and behaviors of others. We certainly don’t want to abandon any of this!

However, past experiences don’t always apply to current conditions. A particular behavior from one person does not necessarily mean the same as a similar behavior from someone else. Heck, sometimes the behavior doesn’t even mean the same coming from the same person!

Silence is a great example. Just imagine all the different motivations, meanings, and emotions behind something as simple as an absence of noise. They’re endless! Of course, we know this. But preconceived notions are hard to shake, especially when they trigger negative memories and emotions.

So what can we do? I think the most we can hope for is to be vigilant in our mindfulness. In this way, we can train ourselves to a new kind of knee-jerk reaction: one that catches ourselves in the act and stops our runaway emotions.

Sometimes, giving people the benefit of the doubt helps us feel better, as well.


Tori Eldridge is an author who challenges perception and empowers the spirit each and every day!
VISIT HER WEBSITE to read more Mindful Musings, listen to Empowered Living Radio podcasts, or learn more about her and the books she writes, including the expanded e-book edition ofEMPOWERED LIVING Expanded Edition: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection


4 thoughts on “Knee-Jerk Reactions

  1. Daniel Dunn

    Literally just before reading this, I encountered a filthy gentleman on a crowded bus who walked straight into my space by the back door. I simply moved into the aisle and offered the space with slight grin that wasn’t nice or mean. He started to apologize and tell me about his work day and how he didn’t have any other clothes. All I said was, “I’ve been there” and offered the same grin with a bit of encouragement behind it. After a few minutes and some moves to different spaces, the man pulled a clean white shirt from his bag and began changing right there on the bus.

    I really like this post and how it inspired retrospection and mindfulness. Sometimes people are apparently lost in their own minds and don’t know what they’re thinking.

    A few more minutes before I get to practice this in the dojo.

    Thanks, Tori, always inspiring and pleasant reading your posts.


    1. torieldridge Post author

      Thanks for sharing that experience, Daniel. It’s always fascinating to watch our perceptions change with each new bit of information we receive or observe. Of course, we first have to be paying attention! Great to hear of a fellow ninja practicing compassion and mindfulness. 🙂


  2. Elizabeth

    Like this. I especially enjoy mixing it with writing stories in my head and another article on this about imagining a situation in which your beliefs are wrong. As on. a person could be too lazy to go back for the potatoes – or using exhaustion as an excuse to make a spouse who shouldn’t have them for some reason not have the at least for that shopping-cycle. Or maybe she just ran a marathon?
    It’s fun to speculate!



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