As we all know the first responder is the person on the scene of an accident or crime that shows up ( hopefully) before anyone else. EMS, Police, Firemen, the first ones we rely on in case of emergency.
They are fast. They are proficient in being ready to move in a split second. They are so trained to act they don’t actually have to think.
That ingrained sense of “I’m on my way” is why you hear about off duty officers, and fireman showing up at accidents. It’s what they are programmed to do.
But there is another set of first responders, those primary set of responses we find ourselves resorting to when something happens to us.
They often stem from our youth, our conditioning, they have root in our fears and our wounds. They are more often than not a protective response. You can even call it fight or flight.
They are anything from hair trigger temper, if someone says anything we might feel offended by. It can be the silent treatment when we are let down. It can be a sense of abandonment when someone has not fulfilled a duty or a promise. A petulant, childlike reaction we don’t get what we want.
Emotional first responders can be found in aggressive emails when the “send” button is pressed too quickly and without thought.
It can be the “I’ll show them” attitude. First responders that stem from hurt and pain are seldom well thought out. Unless you are ridiculously healthy they do not come from a place of clarity and calm.
They sprout forth from a fountain of hysteria, trepidation and hurt.
Unlike cops, fireman and EMS workers they seldom help the situation. They tend to ratchet up the tension and strife, and without question they can make us anxious and unsettled.
The confusing thing is we think we are righting some wrong. But we are really just making sure whatever happened will be more high octane than it started out to be.
A moment out, to say there are places where that highly charged first responder emotion is useful. With a bit of self-reflection, it does not take much effort to figure out what those are
It’s the other ones I’m more concerned about. How do we retrain ourselves not to rely on the tried and not so true first responders that come from pain and disenfranchisement?
Put a pin it. Really. This is what I have learned. I am first responder like you can’t believe. I have to literally hold myself back sometimes.
Right now, I have four emails sitting in DRAFT in my computer, written from the first responder place, but I refuse to press send.
I have taught myself better to not rely on the my first responder instincts in thorny situations. Better to sit back on it. Let it go for the moment. Allow myself to calm down for a few days or weeks if that’s what it takes. Keep contact with the party in question to a minimum and neutral.
I find in time and using this technique I do not burn bridges, hurt feelings, destroy friendships or business partnerships.
Time has taught me it takes a period of pondering and settling for me to fully understand something and deal with it from the proper responder and not the first responder.
These moments can be big deals in your life or small ones. Sometimes you need a week or two without contact to get back on an even footing. There are situations when a hot bath and glass of wine(for those without addiction issues) is all you need to return to that place called normal.
So next time don’t let the first responder emotion to show up in a difficult situation be the one to help you out. Give yourself some time to see what shows up second or third. Nothing may show up and the first responder was right. Chances are with some whitespace between you and the incident, you will see they were a bit too aggressive and you will choose to go with a more measured responder than a first one.