Updated: Jun 19, 2020
“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” (Viktor Frankl)
Are you a slave to your impulses or the master of your own destiny? Do you live your life at the mercy of your emotions or you do intelligently respond to them? As conscious and rational human beings, we have a lot more control over our lives than many of us assume. So many people sleepwalk through life like slaves to their emotions, failing to realise that they can take ownership of their lives and become the captain of their own ship!
Our experience of anger is a good example of how people very easily become overwhelmed by extreme emotions. Feelings of anger can very easily trigger emotional outbursts that we later bitterly regret. In the ‘heat of the moment,’ we say things that we almost instantly regret or do things that leave us feeling deeply ashamed. We look back and don’t recognise ourselves – it is almost like we became possessed and lost all control over our bodies and minds!
Instead of being a victim of impulsive reactions such as these, we can choose to instead make intelligent responses. We do not have to be controlled by our extreme feelings of emotion – we can accept these feelings before consciously choosing how we will purposefully respond. The Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote that between stimulus [the trigger] and response, ‘there is a space’. Within this mental space, we find ‘our power to choose our response’.
This power is extraordinarily precious – it is your opportunity to become the master of your destiny. It is your opportunity to decide you will not get bitter but get better. It is your opportunity to express your emotions in constructive – as opposed to destructive – ways. This opportunity is made available to every single one of us in every single moment. No matter what the circumstances or how you feel, you always have the choice whether to react or respond. You have a choice to either be driven by your impulses or to instead make intelligent decisions.
No matter how strongly we feel, we always have power over how we express our emotions. We always have a choice whether we will impulsively react or intelligently respond. It is completely up to us whether to express our feelings in constructive or destructive ways. Will you choose to make a calm conversation about how you feel or lash out at them in an angry fit of rage? Will you allow yourself to cry and break down, or will you unwisely attempt to bottle your sadness up? Will you acknowledge your fears before working to make peace with them, or will you allow them to paralyse you and stop you from enjoying life?
Your feelings are always valid. Your emotions must always be expressed. But you do not have to impulsively react to them in potentially destructive ways! You can choose – in that gap between stimulus and response – to take a much more rational and mindful approach.
You do not have to be a victim to your impulsive reactions. You have the power to instead choose an emotionally intelligent response, one that will allow you to express your emotions, clearly communicate how you feel, and enable you to do something constructive with your emotions.
Know that the choice is completely and utterly yours. It is completely within your capabilities to turn impulsive reactions into intelligent responses. This does not mean denying your emotions or trying to stage-manage your responses. It means living in an emotionally intelligent way that will facilitate the constructive expression of your feelings, preventing the damage inevitably caused by destructive behavioural patterns.
Cultivate emotional intelligence and unleash your power to turn your impulsive reactions into intelligent responses.