Confession time! I do this much more than I would like. I over-react to little things because in some way they hit too close to home. A trigger is pulled, a button is pushed, and boom! Then instead of reflecting, analyzing, and appropriately correcting my reaction, I try to avoid that stimulus at all cost.
That. Is. Not. Healthy.
It may be normal, but I’m not called to be “normal.” I’m called to rise above the storms. I’m designed to soar like an eagle far above the clouds where the winds no longer buffet my wings.
My tendency to swing between over-reaction and avoidance reminds me of physics class. (For those of you starting to glaze over from science-class inflicted boredom, I promise it is relevant. Bear with me a moment.)
Have you ever watched a pendulum? Maybe you are like me and spontaneously recite Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion… “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Just me? Probably… but the axiom holds true.
When a pendulum is pulled back and released, the bob swings equally far in the opposite direction. In a system without resistance, this will continue indefinitely… a constant back and forth, never slowing or changing. That’s inertia – an object in motion will stay in motion. However, because of forces like friction or air resistance, the bob will return to a position just shy of start and then continue swinging in the opposite direction. Eventually, the bob will return to center, but how long this takes depends upon the angle at which it was released, the length of the bob, and how much resistance is present.
Now, what on earth does this have to do with over-reaction? Everything.
When we over-react to something, most likely it is not truly an “over”-reaction but rather a misplaced reaction. You see, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, including our emotions. Fear, excitement, joy, pain, anger… these emotions are all responses to something occurring in our world. Emotions are a natural response to a stimulus. Healthy, appropriate responses are neither suppressed nor exaggerated, but rather mirror the magnitude of the occasion. However, if an unhealthy or inappropriate response occurs, it does not mean that our emotions are “broken,” but rather that there is an area in our lives that is not in balance. The stimulus which prompted the seemingly exaggerated response is merely a shadow of some other trigger that is buried within mind and heart.
The pendulum was already in motion before the offending stimulus occurred, and its motion never stopped. Maybe the pendulum’s drop angle was very sharp, an intense trauma producing jarring effects. Maybe the bob was really long so the pattern has been in motion for a very long time, maybe even as long as can be remembered. Maybe there hasn’t been enough resistance to bring the bob back to stillness, so it continues to move uninhibited. Whatever the reason, the pendulum is still swinging.
If you’re like me, it might be because you have avoided the stimulus that prompted the chaos. Or maybe you need more time, more space, more healing, more chocolate. Whatever reason you ascribe to the behavioral pattern continuing, know that it CAN be stopped.
The pendulum will keep swinging, side to side, until some force halts it. You may feel powerless to stop it, but this is a lie. Peace can be brought to the swinging chaos.
Reach out to the One who is Peace, to Jesus. Ask Him to show you where the true stimulus lies within your past that started the wild swinging of emotional reaction. He is faithful and kind. His Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth and heal the inner wounds. Regardless of the intensity of the pain or wounding, He knows exactly what happened and He sees it from a different perspective. He designed you; He can navigate you back to truth.
He can guide you through the maelstrom to the eye of the hurricane where there is peace. He can cause the winds and waves to dissipate around you.
He is the One who calms the storms with a word. He can whisper “Peace. Be still.” to oceans, pendulums, and even your raging emotions. He can mend your heart in places you didn’t even realize were broken, but there is a cost.
No more avoidance.
You must be still in His Presence.
You must spend time with Him without shrinking back in shame.
Be like David and cry out to Him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV
Allow Him to transform every one of the scars into marks of beauty and badges of honor.
As He works within you, He will bring peace to your pendulum. You are His masterpiece and He is faithful to finish every good work which He starts. Let Him provide the restraint you need to change the motion and bring you back to center with Him.
Because when you are centered with Him, there is no cause for over-reaction. There are appropriate responses in perfect sync with His heart of mercy, love, and grace.
So go ahead, start slowing that pendulum down by being still with Him. Allow Him to provide the resistance to bring you back to rest. He’ll finish the work He starts.
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If you need help figuring out how to begin this journey of being still with God to change behavioral patterns, one resource I found very helpful is the “21 Day Brain Detox” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Check it out here: https://21daybraindetox.com/