Between Stimulus And Response

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl

As a holocaust survivor who felt more freedom and power than the guards who held him captive in the concentration camp, Victor Frankl stumbled upon one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings: the power of choice. Most of us are truly enslaved by our own mind; the negative thoughts, the beliefs, or the perspective we hold of our lies. We become the victims of our own circumstances instead of the powerful liberators we can be. Rather than recognize that there truly is a space between stimulus and response, we go on automatic pilot, letting our emotions and our ego run our lives, rather than connect more deeply with what might be our optimal choice in the present moment. And what generally occurs is that most of us don’t even recognize that we have a choice – we often say “I couldn’t help myself” or “I just reacted”. We then beat ourselves up for our reaction and start a vicious circle that keeps us stuck in the exact circumstances from which we wish to break free. But, if we can simply recognize that even our response to our shortcomings or reactions is an opportunity to choose, we can begin to break the cycle. Instead of doing things the same old way, what if in between the stimulus and response – which can include our human reaction to a situation – we brought kindness and compassion to ourselves? When we make a subtle shift like that, we begin to feel more confident and capable of change. We can then translate it into every choice we make so that we can more freely live the life we envision for ourselves.

Weekly Path to Peace: Recognize the space between.

  • Because we may not even be aware how much our lives are run by our emotions or our automatic reactions, spend a day simply observing how quickly we react or respond to outside stimulus. Do we automatically become defensive to others’ comments? Do we respond to every negative comment or infraction? Or do we even eat or numb in response to being hurt? Spend a day simply observing how often we live on autopilot.
  • Consciously choose to spend a day creating the space between stimulus and response. Rather than beating ourselves up or reacting to other’s comments, simply take a breath and count to ten. Ask yourself what is my highest choice at this moment? Am I reacting out of fear or some unmet need? What is my goal in this current situation? Often envisioning how we envision a situation or our life to be at its highest can pull us out of the drama of our choices and create the space to grow and be free!