My mission in life is…to close the gap between when something happens and when I react authentically to it. ~ Geena Davis, episode 145 We Can Do Hard Things
The gap between stimulus and response can be a tricky space to navigate. There are so many variables which affect how we respond. The following recommendations are based on the assumption that you are not in fight, flight, or freeze mode: involuntary responses which occur when you are over-stimulated by a perceived threat.
Assuming that your pre-frontal cortex is still engaged (not so much in fight, flight or freeze mode), you have the ability to pause and to choose your response. This ability to review and to pick from a variety of options is contingent on two things: consciousness and competence.
Consciousness is being aware of your internal and external landscapes. Competency is “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.” (Oxford Dictionary)
You can be conscious and either competent or incompetent. You also can be unconscious and either competent or incompetent.
When I am conscious and incompetent, I often feel like I am outside my body watching myself act like a fool. During these moments, I have an internal commentator who engages in a play-by-play of my antics. “Oh look, there is Kim yelling like a banshee. Wow! She is gesticulating wildly. Boy is she out of control.”
When I am behaving incompetently, the gap between stimulus and response feels non-existent, and quite often, I am under-resourced.
My goal in this scenario is to widen the gap so that I may give myself more time to:
- get grounded and centered
- identify my options
- ask for what I need (get resourced)
Some ways I widen the gap are:
- State what I am doing and/or feeling. “I am yelling. I feel out of control.”
- Name how I want to behave. “I want to be able to communicate calmly and speak respectfully and kindly.”
- Ask for what I need. “I need to stop and attend to my needs. Can we talk about this later?” I HIGHLY recommend offering a specific time to reconvene. If people do not know when you plan on continuing the conversation, then they are more likely to persist. This persistence is a fear response. They are afraid you will avoid the conversation, and they often need reassurance that you will come back.
When you are behaving competently, you can be either conscious or unconscious. The difference is how you perceive the stimulus.
Sometimes you perceive the stimulus as triggering. In this scenario, you have strong feelings and may need to take some deep breaths, so you find a value-aligned response. You are conscious of your internal conflict and are able to respond competently.
There also are scenarios in which you are behaving competently and are unconscious.
These scenarios feel effortless because you no longer are affected by the stimulus. You have done your work and are able to respond competently without struggle. I LOVE it when this happens!
This next sentence may be stating the obvious; however, I did not want you to think I had forgotten unconscious and incompetent, my least favorite scenario. In this instance, you have no idea how impacted you are by the stimulus and are responding from a primal, wounded place. Unconscious and incompetent is the place where you have the most work to do and requires a willingness to be vulnerable and receive feedback.
Consciousness cannot be forced and needs psychological safety.
Working with people you trust is essential to uncovering what is currently hidden from you. I do this work in counseling sessions with clients and find it very rewarding.
As you move into the holidays, you may find that there are more stimuli which trigger you. (I know I do.) Holidays carry a lot of expectations and require a lot of resources to navigate. Giving yourself permission to say no to expectations, both your own and others, as well as to give yourself plenty of time to stay resourced are excellent strategies to avoid incompetence.
I also want to give a shout-out to Makerspace Open Hours on Friday afternoons (2 to 5 pm). Every week I look forward to my time in community. The people who come are lovely and my soul feels full.
Wishing everyone a wonderful week!
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where people could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Kim is a licensed professional counselor and a yoga teacher. She completed the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy program as well as the Shake Your Soul Yoga Dance program. Kim is very interested in somatic expressive therapy, archetypal psychology, gardening, herbalism, astrology, wisdom traditions, and regenerative economics.
Kim continues to build and to support inclusive, vibrant communities. She spends most of her time mentoring leaders, guiding healing programs, and providing mental health counseling.
Sign up here to receive updates on free community events, workshops, and more.