What is Reactivity?

October 16, 2019

What is emotional reactivity? How do direct realization traditions view reactivity? What are some of the ways we work with reactivity and unwind repetitive karmic patterns of response? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

So tonight I thought I would talk about one of the factors that makes Trika Shaivism or any direct realization tradition what’s called a mature tradition. If you read the ancient tantras or any of their commentaries, they say that someone who finds this kind of tradition (due to infinite circumstances and their own activity as practitioners) is ready for a path that’s a little more direct, that requires some more self responsibility, and that might actually be a little bit more rough and tumble. This is what they mean by mature.

I want to address one of the many, many factors that might cause ancient writers to say such a thing. And that is how we relate to what is called reactivity. What is reactivity? Reactivity is when we have some sort of pattern of emotion. It could be a pattern of thought also, but it’s always accompanied by some kind of emotion. And it’s a habitual pattern. It’s a pattern that repeats in response to circumstance, or even without any trigger from circumstances. Because we have a way of projecting on to circumstances that allows these patterns of reactivity to perpetuate themselves.

In an ordinary way of relating to reactivity, it usually involves some sort of equation like this: I feel this way, I’m reacting this way, or I’m responding this way because you did something, you didn’t do something, something happened externally to me, some external circumstance, some historical pattern, my astrology, or something like that. Something not me.

There are other kinds of reactivity. But fundamentally when we’re talking about reactivity in an ordinary way, we mean a pattern of emotional response that arises in a person. And that person has a habit of looking for a cause or an explanation based in external circumstances and with other people.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.