Reaction vs response
As undergraduate medical students, we were taught about muscle contractility and excitability by electrical stimulation of a nerve muscle preparation harvested from a frogs thigh. The strength of the current applied to the nerve was incrementally increased, while closely monitoring the response.
It was observed,that there was not even a flicker of activity with successive increase in the current, till a threshold was reached, at which point, all the muscle fibres contracted in unison. Any subsequent supra threshold increase in the current changed neither the amplitude nor the frequency of contraction. This phenomenon is called an "all or none" phenomenon ; all the muscle fibres contract beyond a critical threshold current but none below that. It demonstrated the inherent congruence and unambiguity of biological tissue behaviour .
This attribute ensures, an integrated , coordinated and complete response, avoiding any tentative, half hearted "reaction". Feeble ,partial reactions are called as fasciculations which are not only unproductive, but come at the cost of expending energy, a very precious resource considering the plethora of stimuli, that the organism is exposed to.
Day to day life involves dealing with a myriad of situations, circumstances, that entice the subject to react. Half hearted reactions, expend a lot of emotional, physical and mental energy. They are the consequence of an excitable state pregnant with anxiety, making one edgy, nervous apprehensive and irritable. Trivial stimuli stir the hormonal cauldron, cascading into a fight,flight or fright reaction. Such emotional fasciculations more often than not are futile, unproductive, and self defeating, wreaking havoc on the internal milieu. Repeated turbulence of this type could be the substrate of psychosomatic illnesses.Reactionary behaviour sends ripples over the surface of the discriminatory intellectual waters or " vivekbuddhi". Extreme turbulence virtually makes the intellect ineffective, resulting in erratic irrational behaviour
Response is a stage, that precedes reaction. It involves cognition and interpretation of the stimulus, coupled with an ability to evaluate its threshold potential. Only, threshold or supra threshold stimuli are forwarded to the "reaction department " for appropriate action. Sub threshold stimuli, are processed, and at the most stored if necessary or then just ignored. The "all" response is a reaction, but is purposeful, effective, and complete.
A response is physiological and need based whilst reaction is emotional and fear based. Being responsive, improves performance, whilst reaction serves to its detriment.
Reaction or response, both are in the domain of duality. The subject ,object stimulus ,response dichotomy still permeates perception.
In the course of spiritual progress, there comes a milestone of "Sthita Pradnya" or stilled intellect. This is a state, of dispassionate observation. It is also the objective of "Yoga", -" Chitta vritti nirodh".
Chitta is the state of pure consciousness, and vritti is the storehouse of all the tendencies and desires,acquired over successive lives. Yoga endeavours to disconnect the two. This is largely achieved by purifying awareness to a state of non duality. The stilled tranquil waters, of the mind and intellect permit a glimpse of the self, the state of beingness, awareness, and bliss - " satchitananda", a state transcending duality and becoming "all and none" .