• Kevin Patton

Opposite Action

Updated: Sep 17, 2019


When we are distressed, we experience very powerful and uncomfortable physical feelings. These physical sensations create an URGE to ACT.

Emotion causes us to respond physically and impulsively. Different emotions cause different physical responses and impulses. Sadness makes us withdraw from others, so we might stay at home, avoid family and friends, or stay in bed. Feeling angry makes us feel like we want to hit out at others, or defend ourselves, or to hurt ourselves, often resulting in doing something we regret later. Anxiety and fear make us want to avoid situations or want to escape from wherever we are. Shame can make us want to hide.

Impulsive actions often have negative consequences, and the feelings come back later. In order to make a positive difference in our lives, we need to do things differently. If we keep doing what we did, we’ll keep getting what we got. We can learn to change our old impulsive actions reactions by doing the opposite action. It may feel like we’re going against our instincts, but it will help us break the cycle and start moving towards the person we want to be living the life we want to live.

The Opposite Action skill encourages us to do the opposite to our emotional urge to react.

If we were a tiger, our urge would be to attack when threatened. However, using the Opposite Action skill, we would recognise our action urge and consciously choose to do the opposite – holding back, and perhaps avoiding gently, acting with kindness.

How we relate to our experiences

impacts on how we feel and on how we behave.


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