In a recent talk on happiness and stress, our very own Dr. Jonny Bowden shared a critical insight into finding peace and joy in life. Between each event in life and our reaction to it, there’s a space. And within that space, there’s a story we tell ourselves (usually without us even noticing) that causes us emotional turmoil and often, to act in ways we regret.
For example, maybe somebody cuts you off in traffic, and your story is that they’re a jerk. So you get angry, and within that anger, you start to drive a little bit more aggressively yourself.
But what if you found out they were rushing their child to the hospital? Would that change your reaction? Would you have a little bit more compassion? Maybe you’d even help them by moving out of the way.
Dr. Jonny encourages us all to liberate ourselves from some of these painful emotions and regrettable decisions we make by pausing in that space between the event and the story we tell ourselves.
He says, “A lot of the unhappiness I’ve had in my life has come from acting too quickly, so the tip I wrote down was to ‘practice the pause.’ If you can practice that, you’ll get a great deal of control over your mind and actions. You’ll gain some introspection, and stop yourself from doing an awful lot of things that you wind up regretting. It’s like what I tell people about food cravings, have the courage to wait 10 minutes before you eat. And what often happens is that the craving goes away, and you change what you wind up doing. I’ve found myself having much more productive responses to things that either irritated me or triggered me. So practice the pause in *that* moment, breathe, and it will lower the temperature of whatever it is that’s bothering you.”
This philosophy is echoed by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor.
In his book, “Mans Search For Meaning,” Frankl writes, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
Every minute, of every hour, we have a choice. We can reflect on pain, or we can focus on small things we are grateful for. We can boil over evil and injustice in the world, or appreciate the small humors in life. We can, no, we must, choose our meaning in life.”
One of the few things we control in our life is our attitude. Despite the number of diets we’ve tried, the number of exercise programs we’ve purchased, and the results (or lack thereof) that we’ve achieved, we can always choose to look a the world through a different lens.
It all resides in that space; that space in between an event and the stories we tell ourselves.
What stories are you telling yourself that can derail your day? Can you “practice the pause” this week?