Chain reactions

Iceland, Volcano, Rainbow, Evening

I caught myself singing while I was hoovering… ‘Give a Little Whistle…’, a song I haven’t heard in years. It comes from Disney’s Pinocchio and the more I look at the story as it is told in the film, the more I see. It is the tale of an old wood carver who makes a puppet and yet wishes it were a real boy… a child. The Blue Fairy gives life to the puppet and promises that if he is “brave, truthful, and unselfish” and listens to his conscience, he will one day be a real boy. Jiminy Cricket becomes Pinocchio’s conscience and their journey through the temptations and trials of life begins.

The story is not unlike our own. And if we look at it symbolically, we may gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the way our inner child, the soul child, must learn and grown through its experience of life and through our mistakes. Our journey too is informed by that still, small voice of conscience, though we think of it as internal and silent, something we alone can hear and can choose to heed or ignore. We always have that choice. Sometimes, however, the voice belongs to an external agency… a book, a situation we observe or a friend… that can hold a mirror before us and allow us to see ourselves as we are. The picture is not always a pretty one and it takes courage and compassion for a friend to hold up that glass for us.

We see conscience in action every day, especially in our interactions with others. Once words are said or a tone is used, they cannot be recalled and no apology can erase them, even if we are forgiven and understood by others who see us more clearly than we do ourselves. Most of us will do that at some point or another, but that doesn’t excuse thoughtlessness, carelessness or unkindness… yet with the best will in the world, sometimes we simply react unthinking to whatever situation confronts us.

The worst of it is, that even though we may be behaving in a manner we can see, at some level, to be wrong, we simply do not or cannot find a way to stand back and think things through once we are in the grip of strong emotion, especially when we are, ourselves, hurting. Yet people are like a range of small, but potent, volcanoes and when one erupts, those around it may become part of a chain reaction.

Volcanoes are dangerous things when they are ready to spew lava and ash across the landscape, yet they are beautiful when they are at peace. Like a volcano, strong emotions can bring destruction, or be a creative catalyst; new lands may be born from volcanic activity… just as easily as they can be destroyed. Change is never brought about by placid indifference, but by the same token, a force unleashed will always affect its environment and, when that force arises within us, we have a responsibility to direct the flow.

One of the definitions for ‘reaction’ is ‘a process in which substances act mutually on each other and are changed into different substances, or one substance changes into other substances.’ Interesting if you apply that to human behaviour… to act upon mutually, with the result that both are changed. You can see that in  our interactions with each other, but it becomes especially apparent when we react without thought to the promptings of pent up emotion or pain. Anger, revenge, envy… reacting to negative emotions changes us, and often those around us, into something most of us do not want to be.

We see the other end of the spectrum with positive emotions like love, compassion, understanding. They too change us as we act upon them… and there seems to be that distinction. We act, rather than react, from those higher emotions and the changes that are wrought are both positive and visible, in ourselves and in those around us too. It’s something to think about… and puts a new slant on the saying that we should be the change we wish to see.

16 thoughts on “Chain reactions

  1. Been considering this a lot in the last few days.

    Someone posted “Disclaimer: I am not responsible for your thoughts, assumptions, decisions or actions” in a context that was both disturbing and enlightening.

    It bothered me that this statement, beloved of trolls worldwide, was being used to justify bad behaviour by the poster, through the simple action of attempting to project the negative reactions engendered by that behaviour upon those caught up in the unneccessary drama of the situation.

    We are co-creators in all things.

    Reactions occur in context. Ignoring the context in order to salve our own conscience, deny our responsibilities within the context, or to deflect that responsibility away from ourselves, in no way absolves us of the part we played in creating the “offending” reaction in others, particularly where it is our personal actions which are, in fact, the offence.

    So, indeed, “I am not responsible for your thoughts, assumptions, decisions or actions”, but perhaps it is time to accept, and apologise for, my part in raising these thoughts and actions within you, and, rather than judge your decisions, come towards an understanding of my own need to distance myself from that process.

    As co-creators, we owe each other that much. Surely!

    Thank you for expressing the problem so eloquently – allowed me significant closure on my own, possibly irrational, indignant reaction to that initial post… 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve been thinking about that concept a fair bit too. We cannot change or control and therefore cannot be responsible for how another reacts or what they do about it. But that idea is often used to escape a personal responsibility. We are entirely responsible for our own actions, thoughts and choices…including the choice of words, facial expressions or body language that may provoke or incite a reaction in others.

      Empathy , awareness and understanding of how others could perceive what we do and say and a conscious decision to ‘self edit’, before we write, speak or act, goes a long way in picking up possible hurts and offences…and yes, an apology when we offend anyway…can avoid many probelms. If people stop and think a moment, they might see the perceived slight to be imagined or unintentional… but for a few, that is not an option.

      There are those who will seek to take offence regardless of all the care you might give, and then use that offence as an offensive weapon and make you feel you are to blame. For such you cannot shoulder the blame. Power is their only goal and they would not care for explanations or apologies, seeing themselves about such considerations. I hate to see their victims suffering for such arrogance.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Hmm, I think this will be on my mind today Sue. It’s something to be very aware of.On a less thoughtful note, I just hop ‘Give a Little Whistle’ doesn’t become the earworm I’m thinking it might be. Have a good day (the latter truly meant) x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are, Jaye, though I think the wording leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding…and excuses. We have a responsibility for all our own actions, including anything we do, say, think or write that might hurt, annoy or upset others. On the other hand, we have no control over their thoughts or reactions, and therefore cannot blame ourselves if others take a genuinely unfounded position of offense, and there are those who will do so simply because of their own characters and perceptions. The problem here, as is so often the case, is one of semantics. How are we defining responsibility?

      As an example, my first husband stuck a knife in my throat. Was it my fault? He said so…because I had not put enough sugar in his tea. Was I truly responsible for his actions? For that particular action, I was not to blame; he would have found a reason, whatever I did or did not do.

      The responsibility I must accept is for my own actions …or lack of them; I was too weak to face my real fears and so stayed in a violent relationship instead of leaving. Looked at in the cold light of day, that does make it both my fault and my responsibility. But that still does not absolve him of responsibility for his own actions. Bullies and abusers of all kinds will always find a reason to shift the responsibility for their behaviour on to their victims. Those victims may well have work to do on themselves…as I did… but they should never be made to feel that they are to blame for a bully’s tyranny.

      On a wider level, we would need to look at why a bully behaves as they do and where their damage stems from…and that cascade of responsibility may go back generations. Suffice it to say that we all make mistakes, for which we must accept responsibility, that may have consequences far beyond the immediate ones we do, or do not see.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The older I get, the more bound I am by conscience. There was a time when I could dodge around it. Ignore it. Pretend I didn’t “hear it.”

    Now, I can’t get around it. I may have to choose which aspect of conscience I will follow, but I can’t go on without it. Things I could ignore when i was younger, I can’t ignore now. If I had been this bound by conscience when I was young, I’m not sure who I would be today.


    1. That is the thing…we can pretend we don’t hear, but we do and the awareness of our choices changes us, one way or another, as much as the choices themselves.


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