While a student in the Master’s program for Mental Health Counseling, there was a book that was required reading. The book is titled, “Man’s Search for Meaning” written by Dr. Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist and also a Holocaust survivor. From 1942 until 1945 he resided in several different Nazi concentration camps working as a physician, a psychiatrist, or a slave laborer. Dr. Frankl kept journals chronicling his experiences and observations while an inmate, in which he sought to discover the meaning and reason to continue living even in the most challenging and brutal experiences.
There is one quote in his writings that I would consider one of the most powerful and profound sentences ever written. Dr. Frankl writes:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
And in that space is our power to choose.
And in that choice lies our growth and our freedom.”
Wow! How deep is that and how much can we learn from his words! If in our lives we could learn to lengthen the space between the time something happens…an action, a decision, an attitude, a careless word…and our response (which many times is a reaction instead of a response), we would then be able to see that we have choices and options. And as we recognize our different options, we than have the power to choose…to choose our words, to choose our tone, to choose our expressions, to choose our boundaries, to choose our response.
As we learn and train ourselves to lengthen the space, we begin to see options and other choices that will set us free from being held hostage to our initial quick, emotional reactions. We can lengthen the space between stimulus and response by taking a deep breath or two, asking a clarifying question, repeating what we think we heard the other person say, maybe even take a walk or do a quick meditation.
As the space lengthens and our choices are broadened, we will experience the power to choose that leads to personal growth and a renewed freedom!
To learn more about the counseling practice of Carma Kuhn, LMHC, visit her website: www.couplescarma.com.