Our Capacity for Growth

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.  [attributed to Frankl but also Rollo May, Steven Covey and variations thereof – see here for more information on this quote]

Many people in our current emotional landscape dislike feeling anxious, depressed and more.  The search for help in these areas has catapulted recently, with more and younger people checking in with their GPs for help with anxiety & depression – it has become more than a buzz word in therapeutic circles.  Looking for a fix.  A way to escape the pain of difficult feelings.  A desire to want something different rather than going inside to search inside ourselves and our processes.  What will fix me NOW, we cry.

This leaves me feeling perplexed.  Are we expecting life to be on an even keel day by day?  No, surely not.  Then why, at some level, is society appearing to fail its “human members” as time progresses?

Let us not seek to blame but understand.  And yet sometimes, it isn’t “understanding” we require (although many clients seek just that) but acceptance, connection and space to reflect without interruption.  Two ears, one mouth.

Human beings are pleasure seekers as many believe.  But it isn’t necessarily pleasure people are after, rather a search for meaning and connection.  If both of those are not present, or lost, this can lead to depression because something went wrong and we hark after those days when it wasn’t “wrong”, and anxiety because if we cannot resolve this current darkness, the future doesn’t look much fun either, and any attempt to “correct” this feeling leads to doing something different so change looks scary too.  Best to stay in a comfort zone of sweet treacle; ultimately slow moving but pleasureful in itself.

But we do always have choice; yet – as I was pondering on choice just this weekend, sometimes we find this choice inaccessible.

Given it would have been my 29th wedding anniversary had I not divorced I remember a lot of choices that were taken from me – choices I could have arguably taken myself but for some reason didn’t; I can blame the strong characters around me or I can blame myself but that changes nothing.

In choosing between depression and anxiety as is often suggested in therapy, we are either looking back with “dark tinted lenses” or looking forward and feeling the “fear”.

Are we hyping up our kids so much with “preparation for the future” that we are taking away meaningful experiences in the present?  Or are we so hell bent on wanting to be heard that we do not listen to what’s actually happening in the moment?

Can we pause for a moment, and think about how we choose to respond in any given moment?

We only have to glance at facebook for a few minutes to see the armchair activism and passive aggression that is on the surface of supposedly meaningful debates.

At the time of writing we are approaching Brexit which is being “led” by a Prime Minister who allegedly has an undetermined number of offspring (I hope both children and father are aware of each others’ presence).  We are also aware that the vote for Brexit was 48% / 52% (so a difference of 4%) and three years later people still threaten one another on social media quite liberally.  If as adults we are unable to conduct ourselves in a considered manner, appreciating both sides of the argument, how can we help our children find comfort in a divisive world?

Let’s also not forget that media is simply a stream of opinion designed to enthuse, dismay, entertain and (probably less) educate.  If you want a political education, get political textbooks and study research articles.  You won’t find it on the BBC and certainly not on social media (unless you find an enlightened person posting an academic article which doesn’t happen very often).

But youngsters cannot necessarily discern in the same way an educated adult might – and we are only as educated as we believe we are.  Simply “thinking positively” is utter nonsense without acknowledgement.  And we speed on through our phones, scrolling up and down, desperate for our next fix without learning to sit in that space.  Do not text.  Do not comment.  Momentarily pause.

That space between stimulus and response.

Find that space.  Sit in that space.  Relish the initial discomfort and then find yourself drifting off into a pleasureful calmness.


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