Viktor Frankl, Nazi holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, philosopher, author and founder of logotherapy has 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.”
This space between stimulus and response that he talks about is nothing but the mindfulness gap. Mindfulness gap makes us assess the situation that we are in and makes us look at all the possible options of action that we have. It allows us to choose the best possible action in a situation and not the first option that comes to mind. Let us take an example.
If I am driving on a busy road, there’s a traffic jam, and I am stuck, my immediate response would be to get irritated at the situation. I may end up annoying the drivers ahead of me by honking incessantly, and be annoyed by the ones behind me for honking incessantly. What choice do I have anyway? Right?
Wrong! I do have several options to choose from. I can either keep cursing or I can recognize a few things. I can recognize that I can step out and check if I can help. I can choose to understand that no one would be blocking traffic for the joy they get out of being cursed by others, so there has to be a reason why there is a jam. I can choose to understand that the person ahead of me is probably just as annoyed as I am, and there is no good reason why I should be annoying him further with my hand jammed firmly on my car-horn. I can also choose to understand why the person behind me is honking; he obviously is just as annoyed and he isn’t even reading this post. I can choose to understand that when I react the way I do, it affects no one but me. I end up creating toxins in my own body and it takes a toll on my health. The person who has caused the traffic jam is blissfully unaware of my existence or the expletives I am using to describe him in that moment.
So, the bottom line is, I do have options. And truth be told, it will take me no more than a fraction of a second to become aware of these possibilities and make a more mindful choice. Or at least remember that I have these choices available to me but I still choose to act like a jerk. The point about this post is not to become all saintly by not reacting at all. That we will cover in another post. The point is to understand and remember that we do have a choice.