Don't Just React. Make Space.
By Megan Reddy PhD
One of Elie Wiesel’s most famous quotes is:
“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.”
When our Reactions Take Over
This is a quote I refer to often in therapy work - here’s why: Sometimes we have these moments where we just react. It happens - the frustration, anger, anxiety, etc. gets the better of us and before we know it, we are saying and doing things that aren’t like us. This sets us up for the cascade of shame, guilt, and regret and often hurts the relationships we care most about.
Our Response: Make Space
In moments like these, the best thing we can do is to make space - to pause. Take at least a moment and a breath – or maybe even a full time out! We need to make space to bring our emotional minds back in alignment with our rational minds so we can be making decisions and taking actions from our wise mind (that lovely place where our emotions and our reasoning work together in harmony).
Making Space Calms the Stress Response
Space allows us to physically calm that stress response - breathing gives our brain the oxygen it needs to stop the adrenaline/cortisol surge. Space allows us to cognitively calm that stress response - what am I responding to, why am I upset, what trigger got pressed, what should I do next to have my needs best met? Space allows us to emotionally calm that stress response - reminding ourselves we are safe, we are loved, we are important.
Making Space Lets us Choose
Once we make that space we are far more effective in our interactions and our responses. We know what pain point was pushed, we are now calm and thinking well, we understand our emotions, and have thought through what we need. Once we make that space, we are powerful and free to act in our own best interest.