The gap

Viktor E. Frankl once wrote:

"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."

Hannah is currently studying Psychology as one of her A Levels and yesterday we were chatting about neuroscience's discovery that our subconscious reacts to stimuli before our conscious brain is aware that we have had that thought. She told her classmates of my experiment where I try to observe myself deciding to get out of the bath in the mornings and the fact that I fail every time. I know that I am likely to get out of the bath soon, and then I know that I am standing up, but I have never been able to observe myself making that decision. If I am not consciously making that decision I am not consciously making any decision. But does this mean I have no free will?

On the way to my Class 1 HGV test yesterday the truck developed a fault, serious enough that we considered telling the examiner and rescheduling the test. We decided to go ahead anyway and to say that this increased my stress levels is an understatement! But because of my years of meditation practice I am so much better these days at noticing my thinking.

I may not have control over my situation, I may not be able to control my thinking, but I can notice it, and I can do so more quickly. Instead of my rising panic swamping me, I was able to observe it and in doing so reduce it. This noticing gives me space.

This is the gap. The space between the stimulus and the response. This is what Viktor E. Frankl was talking about. This is what Buddha realised 2,500 years ago. This is why it is worth practicing.

One thought on “The gap

  1. I only wish the popular quote would finish with "in our choice lies our growth and our freedom" to better focus the sentiment on the practice "in the gap." In this wording, it would also carry the subject more rhythmically, and be closer to the possible "original" Rollo May phrase.


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