Between stimulus and response

And can it be true what they say?

Can it be true that the only time we are free is between stimulus and response?

Something provokes us and we have a choice, a moment to decide: which way do I jump?

Sometimes it’s a milli-second between the two, and we’ve reacted with something negative, something needy, something insecure, pouring fuel on the fire.

‘Not my finest hour’ – we’ve all had a few of those.

But sometimes a few seconds can calm us and we can offer something strong in response.

Sometimes in those holy seconds we actually grow, I’ve seen it happen, and become the bigger person and speak from a spacious place.
Now there’s a miracle.

With certain stimuli –stimuli with resonances from my past – I have to leave the room, physically exit; my response is all the better for it when I return.

And it may be no response at all; all pressure to retaliate, to attack, now dissolved.

That’s a luxury, though; we can’t always leave the room.

But we can always breathe, and breathing is good in the face of a negative stimulus.

A few breaths help us remember who we are – and who we are is much more than judgement, thwarted ego and attack.

Which is why breathing helps, it creates space when we need it.

It reminds us that amazingly, retaliation is not the only option.

Giving people’s words back to them can help sometimes: ‘Do you mean to be as aggressive/negative/uncaring as that sounds?’

Or, ‘I wonder where that came from?’

Or maybe it is not the speaker, but me who needs attention.

The words may be harmless, with no aggressive intent – but their effect on me is significant; they have found a crack in my defences and I am overly- sensitive.

And breathe.

Between stimulus and response, there is a brief, but intense, eternity.

And it is a good day in eternity when we are free men and women between the two.


Leave a Reply