Dying Daily #219: Stimulus and Response

Stimulus and Response

Stimulus and Response


“I understand now that we are not what we think, feel, etc. And I am beginning to understand that our reality is filtered by such things. And it’s making me better understand forgiveness … but here’s where I’m at: is there a true reality if it’s always filtered? And where does responsibility come in … when we choose to act on feeling or thoughts in a situation?”


Responsibility is a tough one.

Keep this quote in mind:


“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.”

Victor Frankl


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I’m a fan of responsibility.

I think that it helps us recognize our power in life, it helps us grow and it forces us to engage with our decisions actively.

It gets fuzzier when we dig down into why we do what we do though.

Yesterday we talked about we filter reality through layer after layer of distorting experiences and beliefs, and this process certainly has an effect on the decisions we make, and so it has to be factored into responsibility. There are also times that we just react to something, the space between the stimulus and our response is so small that we don’t really have a choice in the response.

What about when there is no space between stimulus and response?

It is hard for me to blame or assign responsibility to someone when they react in a way that is so quick that there is almost no conscious thought involved.

Now, I am really, really hard on myself when I react this way, but that’s a different story. If I am fair to myself, I have to ask whether or not I had a choice in the reaction that came out of me.

Sometimes things happen so quickly it is hard to say that we decided at all.

Does this mean we don’t have responsibility for the things we do?

Since everything comes in through layers and layers of accumulated bullshit, are we just automatons wandering through life?

I don’t think so.

We have a responsibility to train our minds to expand that space between stimulus and response.

We have a responsibility to train our minds so that we can make our decisions with intentionality and rationality and compassion and grace and all the other things that make humans so cool.

We have a responsibility to enable ourselves to act out of our best selves as often as possible.

This is important.

This is why we should all learn to observe our mind, to be aware of our emotions and what is going on in our body.

We cannot take an action back, but we can prepare ourselves to do better next time.

And that is our responsibility.