02 Jul The Space Between
First, I want to follow up on last month’s blog in which I talked about some of my journey with leukemia and in particular the long wait between a procedure and getting results. Just to let you know, the results were good. I am still in remission and will continue with my current treatment. Thank you to those who conveyed your concern and support. The journey continues with hope! This month’s blog topic is similar but addresses another form of waiting.
The late Austrian psychotherapist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously said “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.” I think this is so descriptive and important to consider, especially in a world that seems to glorify snap decision makers. Certainly, there are situations that necessitate quick reactions but one of the biggest problems I see in many mental disorders and relational problems is the dangerous power of impulsivity. In the terms described above, impulsivity means there is hardly any space between stimulus and response and thus the very fertile ground for unintended consequences.
Every person who reads this will have agreed with everything I have said so far but there are a high percentage of you who will also sometime in the next 48 hours act impulsively and then regret it. You will say something overly harsh to a loved one and cause unnecessary pain. You will buy something on a whim that in the long run will put more pressure on your already stretched budget. You will take those extra drinks only to see the blue lights in your rear-view mirror. You will get so frustrated with your boss that you will quit on the spot without any good plan for your next job. You will reject good advice just because of who is offering it.
But what if you could take that extra moment and increase the space between what you feel and what you do? Maybe you could come up with a kinder and even clearer response to your loved one that has a better chance of being heard. Maybe you could hold on to the money of that purchase and then not feel so strained when the next bill comes due. Maybe you could order a water and some more food and make it home without the devastating consequences of a DUI. Maybe you could start your job search in earnest before you quit and create a less damaging and chaotic transition out of the job that is not for you. Maybe you could hear the words of the advice and consider it as such instead of focusing on your history with the advice giver. Can you see how in all these later responses Frankl would refer to an increase in your growth and even freedom?