Filling the Gap

“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”.  The preceding quote is often attributed to Viktor Frankl, but it was actually popularized by Steven Covey (O’Toole, 2018).  Covey doesn’t take credit for it either, though; he attributes the quote to an unknown author.  Many psychologists and philosophers have often expressed similar sentiments.  In 1967, Harold McCully condensed a 1963 quote by Psychologist Rollo May into: “Man has the capacity for pause between stimulus and response.  He may choose among alternatives in responding.  This is the taproot of individual freedom” (McClusky, 1967). 

The Mandt System has its own variation of this quote.  We say that in the presence of a stimulus a person should, “affirm their feelings, and choose their behavior”.  The message in all of these quotes is powerful and clear.  We do not have to automatically react to the stimulation from our environment; rather, in the gap between stimulus and response we can exercise the personal freedom to choose our behavior.  This does require self awareness, as some responses are preprogrammed into the autonomic nervous system (LeDoux, 2015).  

Also, some of our neural routes/behavioral patterns have been exercised so often that it will take time to develop new routes/behavioral patterns (Sapolsky, 2018). Our brains tend to be geared toward conserving energy, and this often results in our use of heuristics as a shortcut, rather than actually thinking through a problem (Kahneman, 2011).  With effort, however, we can more actively manage our responses.  We can notice the stimulus, push the pause button, take a deep breath or two,  affirm our feelings toward the situation, think about our potential options, and then choose how we respond.

John Windsor – Mandt Faculty

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