I believe it is important to pay attention to our thoughts, emotions and intuition. They can serve as compasses as we navigate our lives. They often surface involuntarily. We react to them quickly and often without prior reflection. Sometimes this is good because our internal computer ably makes leaps in judgment based on past experiences. Sometimes reacting quickly gets us into trouble because our internal computer makes assumptions based on past experiences.
No space, no power
The problem is we do not create space between stimuli and reaction. Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning author) famously said, “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.” This quote is one of the reasons I named my first website space2live, by the way.
As a highly sensitive person and a brooder, I have fallen prey to the quick regrettable reaction to emotions, thoughts and intuition more times than I would like to admit. The high sensitivity does often lead to fairly accurate predictions, but the brooding keeps me stuck in unhealthy ruminating regarding those predictions or assumptions, particularly if they are negative.
How to pause and put space between the stimuli and reaction? How do we take our power back and grow?
The power of being witnessed
One way, I have found quite effective personally and professionally, is writing. Since 2009, I have been part of a writing group. We now meet monthly. In this group, we get together and respond to writing prompts given to us by the leader, Roxanne Sadovsky. She gives us prompts such as, “And what I really want to say is…” or “When I was in middle school I…” We then write for 10 to 20 minutes without censoring or editing. After time is up, we have the choice to read our writing out loud to the group or not. We almost always all read. Having others witness our unpolished and vulnerable thoughts heals us.
Making sense of it all
Another writing avenue I pursue is creating a weekly post for brendaknowles.com. In the last eight years I have written over 400 posts. Many of you have observed my personal evolution through this writing. Thanks for tagging along for the ride. Through writing, I’ve worked my way through a divorce, long-term relationships, parenting, writing a book and numerous other personal struggles. All the while, creating a personal narrative that helps me make sense of what has happened to me.
By creating a narrative that makes sense of everything that has happened to us and how it has strengthened us, we boost or change our perspective. That perspective is the space between stimuli and reaction.
Sometimes we need help with our narrative
As a personal coach, I often tease out personal narratives by asking my clients to respond to writing prompts like, “I used to be… but now I’m …” Letting them see how they’ve come full circle in a belief, relationship or behavior, gives them the space or perspective to stop ruminating or brooding and move forward.
Naming our feelings is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It moves the function from a reaction in the primitive limbic region in our brain to the more rational pre-frontal cortex.
I encourage you to take the time to write about your experiences. Write with abandon. Write about what hurts. Put space between your thoughts, emotions, intuition and your reactions.
Do emotions get the best of you? Do you react quickly and then regret it? Has writing ever played a part in your recovery?
Speaking of creating a personal narrative to make sense of our lives, click the link to check out my new online course titled: Attachment Moving from Insecurity to Security Within a Relationship. This course helps the student move from insecure patterns ingrained from childhood to secure, confident behavioral patterns that create strong relationships. Be sure to watch the free preview video!