The Psychology of Judgmentalism – 4

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In his discusssion of a psychology of judgmentalism (as contrasted with the capacity to make moral judgments), Terry Cooper compares and contrasts responding and reacting. He sees it as critical that people learn how to respond to one another rather than react to one another. He sees reactance as giving control to others, while the capacity to respond is coming from a person’s “centeredness in grace” (p. 67). (These various distinctions come from Table 4.1 on page 69.)  

 

He says reacting comes from being self-centered, while responding is from a more centered self. Reacting focuses on controlling others and combines thoughts and emotions and is often impusive, coming from both external triggers and internal compulsion. In contrast, responding distinguishes between thoughts and feelings (like differentiation of self?) and is an internal decision from conviction and an awareness of the context surrounding one’s behavior (rather than confusing a person with their behavior).  

Cooper encourages the reader to examine themselves to see when they respond and when the react to others. He acknowledges that we may find ourselves reacting more than we would like to admit.

2 Comments

  1. Once again, I feel that Terry Cooper has done an excellent job of distinguishing between reacting and responding and the role that these two ways of interacting play in the difference between making judgments and being judgmental. Just like his distinctions between critical thinking and thinking critically I think the distinctions made between reacting and responding can also help to serve as check to ensure that you are not being judgmental. I found the distinction that reactance gives control to others while responding keeps control with the centered self particularly interesting. When in the mode of reacting to people or ideas with which we do not agree we are in a sense controlled by them. How we feel and behave becomes dependent on what they do. It seems ironic that someone would want to give up control to a person or idea with which he or she so strongly disagreed, although often this relinquishing of control probably goes unrecognized. For many people I think reacting can be the easier thing to do, because it does not take as much thought or time as responding.

  2. This is a handy distinction to make, isn’t it? Sometimes I will talk to people about them getting “activated” in exchanges with their spouse or teenage son/daughter or employer, etc. This reactance is potentially of great value to understand for oneself.

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