The Tragedy of A Reflexive Response, By Osmund Agbo

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The Tragedy of A Reflexive Response, By Osmund Agbo


We have all been pushed to the edge by someone, which would have escalated into disaster, were it not for the party that took the high road and became the adult in the room. The window of opportunity is found in that space in which we opt to pull back against our default natural instincts.
Earlier this month, I woke up to a gut wrenching video shared by a friend on WhatsApp. It was the clip of a double murder-suicide that happened in Plains Township, a small settlement, roughly 15 miles southwest of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and on the outskirts of Wilkes-Barre. The graphic images captured in that surveillance camera continue to hunt me till this day.
It was a Monday morning and the Nor’easter storm had just dropped two feet of snow that blanketed the little sleepy community. A couple by the name of James and Lisa Goy were shoveling snow from their parking lot, with the snow landing onto the front yard of their neighbour named Jeffrey Spaide. Police said Spaide confronted the couple and they soon started yelling obscenities and trading insults at each other. James appeared to have raised his fist in a threatening gesture. Jeffrey then retreated into his home, came back with a pistol and started shooting at the couple. The footage showed James fall to the ground, after being hit by one of the bullets as he screamed for someone to call the police. Jeffrey went back inside in a continuing fit of rage and this time, returned with an AR-15-like rifle. He shot the couple dead, point blank. The Goys left a 15-year-old son who is now in his grandparents’ care.
What a horrendous tragedy that blew out of nothing!
Prior to the horrific incident, Jeffrey Spaide, 47, had no rap sheet. He was a shipboard engineering technician for the United States Navy and also a licensed engineer for over 20 years, after graduating from Villanova University. But he lived alone.
We have all been pushed to the edge by someone, which would have escalated into disaster, were it not for the party that took the high road and became the adult in the room. The window of opportunity is found in that space in which we opt to pull back against our default natural instincts. The window or space is always there but what we decide to do within that period of time could change our lives forever.
In most instances, the actions of the perpetrators are more a reflection of their inner struggles, rather than anything that has to do with us. That said, if one is not careful, you get sucked into fighting someone’s demons, with disastrous consequences.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom.”
The above quote is credited to Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who belongs in the class of people Plato described as Philosopher-Kings. He earned his stripes from the depths and horrors of a concentration camp. Victor brimmed with wisdom and intellect, cautioning that we learn how to observe this “space” as a way to grow into a better version of ourselves.
Every now and then, stuff is sure to happen to us. Someone will disrespect us and say nasty stuff to us. It might even be a friend, brother or even spouse. And yes, too many Nigerian lives have been wasted in America for reasons bothering on inconsequential marital disputes. It could also be the total stranger you met at Shoprite that you want to curse out and teach a lesson. In most instances, the actions of the perpetrators are more a reflection of their inner struggles, rather than anything that has to do with us. That said, if one is not careful, you get sucked into fighting someone’s demons, with disastrous consequences.
When we resist the allure of a reflexive response, we can access the freedom to respond to pressures, both internal and external, in a way that grows us. These will, for sure, channel us on the path to finding inner peace and tranquility.
It may as well mean that one has to acquire some skills sets to get to a certain destination in our life’s journey. The skill of taking a deep breath to calm frayed nerves, learning anger management or whatever one needs to do. In the end, you will find that owning that “space” is an integral part of becoming the person you wish to be.
When we resist the allure of a reflexive response, we can access the freedom to respond to pressures, both internal and external, in a way that grows us. These will, for sure, channel us on the path to finding inner peace and tranquility.
A Supreme Court Justice and one of America’s brightest legal minds, who passed away recently, gave us a shorter version of Mr.Frankl’s philosophy: When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Osmund Agbo, a public affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Center for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: eagleosmund@yahoo.com

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