In the rush to New Year resolutions, we imagine we can change our ways, or at least a few. Perhaps a better resolution would be to learn to “pause” a moment when we encounter problems. The decision to pause might be more valuable and bring about more change than we can imagine.
to learn to count to 10 before speaking,
to breathe deeply before rushing off into action . . .
These are precious moments that remind us we may not have all the information,
we may not understand all the motives involved,
we may not be opening our heart to new insights and ways of being.
Are we reacting merely out of habit?
“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.” said Viktor Frankel in Man’s Search for Meaning. A psychiatrist, Frankel wrote about his experiences in the Auschweitz Concentration Camp, and he considered that the only freedom the prisoners had (even in that horrific situation) was that of choice in how they responded to what was happening to them. Why did some survive and others didn’t?
As individuals grow to adulthood, we learn that some responses of reacting to the world that protected us as children, no longer serve us well as we grow older. Building walls can protect us, but they also serve to isolate us from others. Being the clown helps break the ice, but also keeps others from taking us seriously. Our childhood habits, while comforting and effective to a certain extent, are automatic and limit us by habit rather than actually accessing the situation as it comes to us new each day. Our assumptions of others reasonings, feelings and actions are often based on how we would react and feel and reason rather than trying to understand where the other person is coming from. We often come to each event with our answers already prepared.
Frankel encourages us to “pause” and in that decision to pause, we let in the opportunity to reexamine the situation. Instead of acting out of habit, we open up another set of circumstances to reconsider and relook at the situation in a new light. When we act out of habit, no thought is necessary, we are moving from habit. But not only is our action striking from habit, our thoughts and feelings act from habit, long standing, ingrained patterned responses to life.
We impact the world by our choices. We have little power over making others change. The power we do have is in our own choice. Rumi said, “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”
Paul in the “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13) reminds us that when we grow up, we must put away childish things. For the one who learns to pause, it means that we reject the idea that what I learned in childhood (my habit) will always be the way I can look at things today. We can learn new tricks. We can change when we make a decision to pause, and when we change, the world around us can also.