The real meaning of “Reaction Vs Response”

“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 is a beautiful quote by Viktor Frankl.

This is often interpreted as our ability to CONTROL our reaction.

So if someone insults you, your instinctive reaction might be to feel angry and lash out. This is called ‘reacting’

If you are able to control yourself and not lash out – this is often termed as ‘responding’

But a lot of times, it is not that you do not lash out. It is that you cannot lash out. That’s a big difference.

You ears turn red perhaps. You feel insulted. You feel like asserting yourself. But the anger is stuck in your throat and you feel a lump. Your voice is stuck. You cannot speak back.

This is your instinctive reaction. 

Now if you have read about stimulus, reaction and response – your conscious mind jumps in to justify your reaction. Something like “I am very angry. But I was brought up to be polite. I won’t fall down to his level”

You are still reacting. It is just directed inward. The anger stays. Ferments. Rots. Gets . Turns into resentment, bitterness. 

‘Responding’ often becomes a justification for our ‘inability to say what is on our mind’

That’s not growth and freedom. That’s helplessness. We are at the mercy of our emotion.

Real response is where you are able to step back and observe the anger. The anger is not using you. You are free to choose both. Express it, or not. Depending on what the situation demands. It cannot force you to lash out outward or inward. 

You are able to exercise an option that you were not able to earlier. That’s growth. 

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