Newton’s 3rd Law of (E)motion

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

As many of you know, Sir Isaac Newton developed the three laws of motion. Although they were what laid the foundation of modern science as we know today, I won’t be going over the first two because they have nothing to do with what we will be discussing in this post. I’m not sure if Newton intended this, but his third law not only describes a property of motion, it’s also applicable to our lives through our human connections and how we treat others.

Once again, this idea comes from the remarkable Dr. Brené Brown. She discusses this concept in her book, Rising Strong, as well as in her interview on Oprah’s, Super Soul Sunday, show, which can be found here starting at 9:07. Essentially, when something happens to you that sparks an emotional response, even if you suppress it in the moment, that energy will resurface and be projected outward in some way, shape, or form. If the emotion is anger or hurt, the reaction oftentimes is in the form of lashing out at someone, blaming someone else for the pain you’re feeling, or even avoidance. There are many different ways that people offload their negative emotions instead of feeling them, as Dr. Brown says. Now is a good time to take a moment and reflect on the ways you may offload your emotions onto others.

Bringing this discussion into a more positive light, the good news is that this concept also applies to positive actions. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, not just negative ones. If someone treats you in a way that makes you feel happy or loved, you’re naturally going to have a positive reaction to it. For example: when a stranger, or even someone you know, compliments you out of the blue, we naturally smile, maybe feel a bit warm inside, and for me at least, want to reciprocate that positive emotion we’re feeling to others. Even the smallest of gestures can significantly effect someone’s day, so image how much a large gesture could potentially effect someone! This is why I believe Newton’s 3rd law is a critical piece to the movement of making our world a kinder place. If every action we do has an equal and opposite reaction, imagine what our world would look like full of people carrying out kind actions that are creating even more positive reactions!

It is inevitable however, that at some point in our lives we are going to face a negative action projected towards us. This means, we will have an equal and opposite reaction to it. Remember in my last blog post when I talked about how choosing kindness can be the tougher choice at times? This is what I’m talking about. Your co-worker yells at you at work, your partner projects their anger at you, you get treated unfairly by your teacher, the list of possibilities goes on. When these situations happen, it is important to take a moment and think about how you are going to project your reaction. Are you going to yell back, suppress your emotions and yell back later, talk about that person behind their back? Or, you can allow yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling (because they are valid) and find a healthy way to project them (react). Writing in a journal, talking to someone you trust, and especially expressing how you feel in a peaceful way to the person who hurt you (definitely easier said than done), are all healthy ways to react. Although you may feel that you were wronged, this is where the statement “fighting fire with fire, only makes a bigger fire” is very much relevant.

Being kind to the people who are unkind to us is one of the toughest decisions we make as humans; it can even be downright excruciating at times. There have been many times that I have wanted to yell back at a person who hurt me, however in the long run, I have never regretted not yelling back. The kindness and grace you give to these people has the power to inspire them to change their behaviour. Kindness is powerful. I believe that as long as we walk through the day remembering that our actions have equal and opposite reactions, this world will become a kinder place.

1 thought on “Newton’s 3rd Law of (E)motion”

  1. Great post Meg! It is challenging to change old habits and responses to emotional situations, but making the effort to change our response in a positive way, can enrich the relationships all around us.

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