Your body can be your most trusted ally in evaluating whether you are on track to respond or to react. As we have discussed, your body and facial expressions reveal your internal state. When you are primed internally to fight, you frown, grimace, pace, fidget, clench your teeth, and even sometimes pound the table. When you are primed internally to flee, you may have that deer-in-the-headlights look: your face is flushed; you turn away and even cringe or cower. In contrast, when you are primed to engage, you appear relaxed yet energetic. Your face and posture convey openness and a sense of positive expectancy. You lean in, not away from.
For decades, psychologists have known that by shifting your behavior, you can change your internal state, and vice versa.1 Like most other people, you exhibit distinct and unique patterns of behavior when you are in responsive and reactive modes. A keen awareness of what happens when you are angry, afraid, energized, or engaged is key to making that shift from responding to reacting when necessary. This next test helps to increase your awareness of your specific behavioral patterns.