Active/Reactive State

Published by Lucy Leach on

I’ve found it useful to use this model of two states of being, it’s helped me recognise when I’m not in the best of moods and change how I’m behaving:

Active State – a feeling of taking control of what is happening around me, and shaping things according to my preference.  I have an idea and I take actions that move me closer to that idea happening.  It doesn’t mean I always get what no matter what, and it doesn’t mean I try to control what others do – I might change what I do around others.

Reactive State – a feeling of inability to influence things around me, and that I just have to react to whatever life throws my way.  Breeds helplessness and uncertainty, and without a clear goal or action plan I’ll just procrastinate.

The state I’m in massively affects the motivation and the thoughts running round in my mind, and both how I interact with others and how others interact with me.  For example, there are some mornings where Stephanie doesn’t want to leave the house, so here’s how that looks in each state.

In a reactive state: Stephanie will refuse to get dressed and the only thing I can do is react in the opposite way and cajole her or be stern.  We collapse into a tantrum together and I just force the clothes on.  We try and go downstairs and get ready in our normal routine but at the first sign of Stephanie not doing what I want then I’m getting frustrated and flustered, constantly bringing her back to the thing we’re trying to do next, be it socks, shoes or coat.  Eventually we get out the door but we’re both grumpy from fighting a battle.

In an active state: Stephanie refuses to get dressed and so I explain what I want and why.  Sometimes that’s enough to convince her she’d have more fun with clothes on.  Other times, it’s still a “no, no, no” so I check how she’s feeling and then choose how to achieve what I want – I could initiate a tickle battle, or smother her with cuddles, or distract her by talking about the animals on the shelf.  I have lots of choices and can find a solution that works for both of us.  By the time we get downstairs, we’re both in a playful mood, and while there may still be reluctance to put shoes on, we find a solution together, even if that means wellies on a hot day or taking five minutes to put clothes on her doll.  We leave the house with a happy Stephanie and a slightly frustrated mummy, but at least we’re out.

Like any dichotomy, it’s more of a spectrum.  Recognising the two poles helps me pull myself towards the active state where I’m happier and Stephanie is a lot more responsive to me.

Categories: Thinking