Sunday, January 01, 2006

Curious about Response - How's Yours?

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.” - Viktor E. Frankl

Yesterday I listened to an Internet radio interview of Jack Canfield. Canfield is the co-author and co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and is also well known for his work in self-esteem. Canfield shared the following equation: E + R = O which stands for Event + Response = Outcome.

Having a strong background in self improvement, I believe that Canfield means that our response - whether negative or positive - to an experience will help determine whether the outcome is negative or positive. For example, so many would-be sales people and writers give up after a few rejections, whereas, those who keep on, keeping on usually achieve their goal(s).

We also let comments from others lower our self esteem. When I first started teaching aerobics, a woman who had been a fellow student made the comment, “I thought you were going to be good, but you have no sense of rhythm and didn’t motivate me at all.” I was nearly devastated - my mother had sent me to ballet and piano classes when I was young, because “I had no sense of rhythm.” Fortunately, I didn’t respond by giving up and today, fourteen years later, I am still teaching at three different clubs to overflowing classes.

As I looked into the word “response” I discovered many different reactions, meanings and uses. They each open up a whole way of thinking, acting and outcomes:
  • Lewis Carroll, in one of my favorite books, summed up the popular idea that if you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? “One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don't know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn't matter.’’’
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger wisely said, “Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn't matter.”
  • While David Herbert Lawrence responds, “The mind can assert anything and pretend it has proved it. My beliefs I test on my body, on my intuitional consciousness, and when I get a response there, then I accept.”
  • And, Deepak Chopra has a different take, “The physical world, including our bodies, is a response of the observer. We create our bodies as we create the experience of our world.”

In the area of the arts, response is extremely important:

  • Rabindranath Tagore defines art, “What is Art? It is the response of man's creative soul to the call of the Real.”
  • Sidonie Gabrielle Colette wrote, “To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one.”
  • Richard Forman expresses what many artists feel, “Which implies that the real issue in art is the audience's response. Now I claim that when I make things, I don't care about the audience's response, I'm making them for myself. But I'm making them for myself as audience, because I want to wake myself up.”

Here are some ideas about “natural or satisfactory responses:”

  • Anne Grant wrote, “Anger is a natural response when something you value is taken away from you. You may feel alone, isolated or not understood.”
  • While Russell Hoban considers that, “There are situations in life to which the only satisfactory response is a physically violent one. If you don't make that response, you continually relive the unresolved situation over and over in your life.”
  • Rex Julian Beaber believes, “A reservoir of rage exists in each person, waiting to burst out. We fantasize about killing or humiliating our boss or the guy who took our parking space. It is only by growing up in a civilized society of law that we learn the idea of proportionate response.”
  • And, Mary Douglas said, “The natural response of the old-timers is to build a strong moral wall against the outside. This is where the world starts to be painted in black and white, saints inside, and sinners outside the wall.”

I hope this investigation into a simple word like “response” has made you think of and be more aware of your responses. I know it has affected me.

I will leave you with a few more to sleep on:

  • “Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals.” - Ralph Bunche
  • “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.” - Nikki Giovanni
  • “There can be no true response without responsibility; there can be no responsibility without response."- Arthur Vogel

And, for a touch of humor:

  • “My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.” - Charles Barkley

I would love to read your response(s).