I didn’t invent the concept of “The Gap”. I was taught it many years ago and attempt to apply it daily. Victor Frankl described The Gap in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
WOW! In our response lies our growth and our freedom!
What is Victor Frankl teaching us? Change is our choice…and it’s an inside job!!
Mostly, I think, we are considering negative stimulus. Positive stimulus makes us smile, or give someone a hug. Negative stimulus sends our blood pressure through the roof.
What are stimulus and response? Stimulus is anything that happens to us. It could be something a spouse, child or friend says; someone cuts you off driving down the road; rainy weather; an article we read or what is said on television. Anything that creates a response in you is “stimulus”.
The response is how we react to the stimulus. Every single time your spouse/partner says or does a particular thing, it makes you furious and you get into a fight.
Applying “The Gap” gives us the freedom to choose not to react, but to respond. Re-act means to do the same thing again, and again, and again.
“In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. What a powerful statement! Think about that.
If a certain action or words make you crazy, and it always makes you crazy, what is going on? Nothing! You are choosing to do the same thing over and over, apparently expecting different results. That does not work.
Determine one stimulus that gets under your skin and considers how you always react. Got it?
Now, how could you respond differently?
The next time your neighbor borrows your baking pan and you know you’ll have to go retrieve it yourself in a week or so, what can you do? Say no. “Sorry, I can’t loan you the baking pan anymore”. That’s your choice and it’s an OK response.
The next time your spouse comes home in “that mood” and you know he’ll be picking a fight, rather than ride the wave of tension, knowing the end result, what can you do?
I know this one can be tough because no matter your activity, the result could be ugly. But, how many more times (for how many more years) are you going to do this dance?
Creating a gap can be a nano-second or days. The point is to choose a different reaction to the negative stimulus; choose to respond. When we respond, we are in control. Our action is not automatic. It is thought out. It is planned.
“In our response lives our growth and our freedom.”
I was still living in a damaging relationship when I learned about The Gap. It changed my life…in small and large ways. I credit applying The Gap to finally getting out. Not immediately; change is a process.
Using “The Gap” taught me to think, to make changes in my thinking process. It taught me that I am in control of myself…my thoughts…my actions. It’s easy to blame your abuser for your fury and for fighting back, which often makes things worse. But you are SO mad, right? I get it. Believe me, I do. Bottom line: You are responsible for your thoughts and actions. No one “makes you” feel or do anything. (If that stimulus makes you angry, read it again. It’s important.)
When I changed the way I responded to his mostly-the-same-actions and words, then things began to change. Maybe not in the relationship, but in my mind. Inside my head.
I can’t give specific examples of behavior change because each of our abusers has his/her own methods of starting incidents. If you grasp the concept of The Gap, then you’ll figure out how you can change the dynamics in your situation.
You’ve got this!
“In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.”