Action- Reaction: Newton’s Third Law (With A Psychiatric Spin)


I am not trying to discuss Newton’s Third Law of Motion which basically goes something like this when applied to two colliding objects:

“… in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the force on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object. Forces always come in pairs – equal and opposite action-reaction force pairs.”


Despite the scarlet-lettered words and the pretty little self-explanatory diagram above, I still reiterate that I am NOT trying to discuss Newton’s Law of Motion. I actually HATE physics (note the present tense).

I am just interested in saying that this particular 3rd law of Newton sounds a heck of a lot simpler when applied in Physics (Just look at the diagram above, and you’ll GET how simple it is; I am, however, going to excuse my humble self from commenting on the actual calculations involved in applied Physics).  

But try to apply the ‘Action-Reaction’ concept in the mundane daily life of normal world citizens like you and me.

Life, our dear readers, is unpredictable with many variables and co-founders – among them are the facts that humans have minds than just brains, have feelings than merely instincts, have ambition and aspirations beyond pouncing on our next meal.

Thus, one particular action can result in many degrees and variations of reaction; and sometimes the reaction does not even ‘pretend’ to equal the action (in fact, some of the reactions can become totally out of proportion…and obviously so, too).

Doesn’t it intrigue you, dear readers? Just contemplate on how no two persons will react in the EXACT same manner with the EXACT same intensity when they were scolded in the same way?

What causes someone to break down in tears may make someone else storm off in anger instead – or less likely  – laughing out loud like mad.

Take this example of how a sad divorce (not like divorce can be anything BUT sad) can affect a couple of children (they are twins, by the way) in a totally opposite manner.

-Twin number 1 may say: I can’t wait to grow up and get married and establish my own happy family. All this scurrying about and living at two different places – depending on whether it’s weekends or weekdays – is making me so miserable, that my heart goes numb.

-Twin number 2 may say: I cannot wait to grow up and live on my own -by myself, by my own rules, without a partner with whom I will end up filing a divorce against, anyway – with no one (or two) telling me how to lead my life.  All this scurrying about and living at two different places – depending on whether it’s weekends or weekdays – is making me so angry, that my heart aches


Twin Number 1 wants to get married. Twin Number 2 wants to live alone.

Twin Number 1 feels miserable. Twin Number Two feels angry.

The heart that belongs to Twin Number 1 goes numb. The heart  that belongs to Twin Number 2 aches.

And they are facing the same action: the divorce of their parents.

Yet their reaction differ greatly.


There’s actually a study on resilience among Acheh children during the period of Tsunami 2004. You can read the study H.E.R.E. The title of the study is:

Children Survivors of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia: a study of resiliency.

It sheds some lights on what makes someone more resilience than others.

Some people develop PTSD post-Tsunami in 2004 that crippled their emotion, their sanity and with that, their very lives. Some simply take everything in stride and say “Life moves on and PTSD or no, I still need to go out there and earn a living and have a life and I REFUSE to let something as ridiculous as unfounded fear to rule my entire being.”

Some find solace in writing and music. Some find peace in giving.

Some find euphoria in heroine.

Some rediscover religion – Tsunami is God’s sign.

Some convert to atheism – This tsunami just PROVES that there’s no such thing as compassionate, benevolent God.

I guess that’s why Newton is a genius. You see, Newton KNEW, that his ‘action-reaction being equal yet opposite’ only happens between two colliding objects. I guess, that’s why it’s called The Law of MOTION; and NOT The Law of Emotion.


This is where psychiatry comes in. We then introduce words like coping mechanism or coping style – constructive coping or maladaptive coping. We introduce words like defense mechanism.

And there’s resilience – my favourite word.

But really, whatever terms we decide to blurt out, at the end of the day, what we actually mean comes down to one thing: REACTION.

May Allah bless all parents who instill in their children great coping mechanisms, making them adaptable and resilience.

I know people always prize intelligence.

Now, let me tell you that it is equally important to prize resilience – that’s our emotional immune system.  Resilience…the ability to bounce back and return to its previous pristine and clean and undamaged, and pure condition after an adversity.

If someday I ever become famous, like Mahatma Gandhi with his “be the change that you wish to see in the world”,  I too want to be remembered by a quote.

And I have decided that the quote I want to be remembered by goes something like this “Human beings should be recognized in two main emotional state: they are either resilient or they are suicidal. Other people who are still in between should hurry up and make up  their minds which one they want to become.”

And, like Newton, I too want to be remembered by my law and my equation. I, hereby, proudly introduce Afiza’s First Law of Emotion:

Action – Reaction = Destruction + Resilience.

Action – Reaction – Destruction = Resilience

The amount left after action meets reaction causing destruction, is resilience.

So go ahead. React in whatever manner you want. Break into tears, scream, be angry, or be furious, sue somebody, kill someone and get a life sentence or a hanging (you know I am not serious, right?) , go into drugs (Seriously, would you be that stupid?), shout your voice hoarse…

…and then bounce back and return to your previous pristine and clean and undamaged, and pure condition.

BUT do remember the equation in how (much) you choose to react and how (much) you choose to destroy out of your reaction – because whatever (much) that is left is your resilience.

And a special note to fellow Muslims out there, do be mindful that the source and soul of our resilience lies in this Hadeeth Qudsi:

“O son of Adam, as long as you call upon Me and put your hope in Me, I have forgiven you for what you have done and I do not mind. O son of Adam, if your sins were to reach the clouds of the sky and then you would seek My forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, if you were to come to Me with sins that are close to filling the earth and then you would meet Me without ascribing any partners with Me, I would certainly bring to you forgiveness close to filling it.”

…and this God’s words:

“Say: ‘O ‘Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful’”[al-Zumar 39:53] 

Which then, of the bounties of your Lord, will you deny?

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