Sunday, May 05, 2013

STIMULUS- (my power to choose) -RESPONSE

I am trying to make some changes in my life. My area of focus is very scattered. Because, well, maybe because if I keep my focus very scattered I will actually hit something on my target. But if I don’t, I won’t feel so bad, because I can tell myself it was because my focus was so scattered!

I am bumbling back and forth between (at least) three self-help type books. One that I finished was a very old, very sexist book about how to live on 24 hours a day. In spite of the archaic language I got a lot of good out of the book. This quote happened to be in that book. I want to read Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” but that is a story and a desire for another day.

So here’s the thing: I want to become more aware of that space between stimulus and response. I really do believe that when I am more conscious of that space, and become more aware of the fact that I have the power to choose my response, I can (maybe) make some of the changes in my behavior that I want (and desperately need) to make. 

Let me just tell you, it is not as easy as it might sound. 

One recent evening, we waiting to be seating at a local Mexican restaurant. We had been told the wait would be 20-25 minutes. I am usually extremely patient about things like this. But (in my defense) it had been a while and I had not eaten lunch that day so I was hungry. I decided I would go and check to see how close we were to being seated. The nice little girl at the hostess stand told me we were next on the list. “Well,” she said, “there is one group ahead of you but there are 17 in that party and they will call you first.” I went back to my waiting spot in the vestibule to sit with my family. 

After about five minutes, they called the party of 17 (stimulus!).  I was fine at that point. I figured they would be calling us next (response!). But, no, they called a party of 14 (2nd stimulus!)! For some reason, that lit my fire. I got up and marched myself to the door (2nd response!). I could hear the shocked voices of my family behind me. Believe me when I say I am not usually the one who gets upset in public. Honestly, I am practically a saint. 

I shoved on the door and it dared not open! I know I stiffened up and got this crazed look on my face as I shoved the door again. My head was trying to tell me the door was not locked, that they were not “out to get me,” but I was not listening. I know it was not too long before I figured out I needed to pull the door to get it to open but when I did figure it out and opened the door, I noticed a woman on the inside giggling to herself. At me, I am sure. I would have giggled too, had I clearly seen myself. In fact, I am giggling now. But I also hope not to get myself into such a wild tizzy again anytime soon. 

I was really stirred up. I got to the hostess stand and told the little girl what had happened. She was beginning to explain (they must have had the group tables already set up and she didn’t know) when they called our names. Thank God, because I might have been almost ready to give that little girl a piece of my mind, and I really didn’t have any pieces to spare!  Instead, I said, “oh, okay, thanks” as I gently touched her arm (it’s a wonder she didn’t flinch, given my body language) and walked off, deeply humbled, to my table. 

Obviously, that is not the better part of me. Obviously, I missed the space between stimulus and response, where I could have chosen to behave in a better manner. Yep, that’s part of what I want to work on.

One of my many targets right now is a place where I really do need to respond with a righteous anger, and stand up for myself. Another target is in the area of taking care of my health. Yet another is in my own personal time management. And always, I could do with being a little less scatter-brained and a little more focused.

(I work in the Psychology Department of our local university. There are professors there who have spent their careers looking at various behaviors and how they are shaped. This is something I knew nothing about before going to work there. It's interesting stuff, but like many other things, it ain't magic. It takes work to make personal changes. One of the other books I am reading says that the brain fights change, but if you make slow changes over a period of time, you can fool the brain into not fighting the change. Or at least, that is my interpretation of what was said! It's a complicated battleground I am walking.)


  1. It sure is. I said to a friend one day, not every action requires a response. I am the original knee jerk reactor. I can't tell you how or what changed. Only that it did. Yes there are times when I still get steamed and feel like it's my right to speak my truth when I am being stepped on. More so now that I am feeling better. For you Diane, since we know each other a while, you do need to speak up for yourself... or even speak. Everyone has a right to be heard. No one has to agree, not even ourselves.. but we have that right. I say good for you for going and saying something... it's a great start. The fine tuning will come... trust me it will. You done good girl!

  2. Annie, man oh man, do I relate to the restaurant scene. Like you, I'm generally patient and not unnecessarily confrontational but since hitting menopause...lets just say that the fuse has been shortened. Are you in that same age "group?" When I have the presence of mind, I try to hold my tongue long enough to weigh the consequences; unfortunately, my mind seems to be absent more often lately.

    Sometimes though, I think it has less to do with hormones than it has to do with being tired and fed up of the same old thing happening over and over again. After a while, enough is enough and even the meek begin to roar. Unfortunately, sometimes we roar at the wrong person. Then, hopefully we re-learn about humility and apologize.

    Also annie, you have suffered an immense loss. Grief like that changes the landscape and it takes time to learn to maneuver in it. It is natural that different emotions seep out in unexpected ways and places.

    In the final analysis, that is a good quote and I agree.

  3. That's a tough one to get to. But when you do, it's tasty for sure. Like a delicious Mexican meal!



  4. My wife would have vividly expressed her anger, no cursing, but none needed for her to make her feelings plain. Me? The anger may come, but my solution is to simply leave and never return......


Don't just sit there staring, say something!