top of page
  • Melissa Panara

The Space

I've recently learned of a man named Viktor Frankl. Have you heard of him? He was an Austrian psychologist, author, and Holocaust survivor who lived from 1905 to 1997. Frankl is famous for many ideas, but this one stopped me in my tracks: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose, and in that choice lies our growth and our freedom. Wow. Well said.

Frankl is right. Young, old, rich, poor... we all get this. The power to choose our response. It is a gift we can accept over and over again. Hundreds of times every day, in fact. Being the messy humans that we are, I think this is really good news. If we opt to use Frankl's all-important space, we can shift from reacting to responding. We can minimize our hurried choices and off-the-cuff comments and instead make ones that feel more aligned with who we are and what we value.

As we practice using Frankl's space, here and there we are bound to respond in ways that do not feel right. Leave us feeling vaguely anxious. I think that feeling is here to tell us something. So, if later a certain response doesn't feel right, we can reach for our beautiful pink eraser and do some repair. We can change our minds. We can choose again. I hope Viktor Frankl wouldn't mind me adding this feature to his idea.

If I were to explain this concept to a child, I might say, "All day, everyday, things happen. Right? Your bus driver says good morning as you hop on the bus. You notice that another kid is sitting in your usual bus seat. The new kid in your neighborhood invites you to sit with her. You realize you forgot your lunch at home.... In each instance, you get to think and decide what you would like to do next. Maybe you say hello and fist-bump your bus driver. Or maybe you notice that you're feeling a little shy today and make a plan to say hi tomorrow. Maybe you join the new friend who offered you a seat and ask her if she knows what's on the lunch menu today. But each time you get to think and then decide. And, if you want to, you can change your mind, use your words, and decide again."

For me, using this all-important space is something I'm going to have to get used to. In the go-go-go style of my life, slowing down to choose an aligned response is going to be challenge. Because, currently, most of my decisions are being made at a furious rate. Just last week, in my multi-tasking haze, I signed up to take a home-cooked meal to a friend recovering from minor surgery... and I hate cooking. This is not the response I would have chosen had I used Frankl's space. So in the spirit of choosing again, I circled-back and offered to send a GrubHub gift card instead. This aligns much better with the non-culinary helper I consider myself to be.

I think this idea resonated so much with me because taking things slowly isn't what people do these days. The to-do lists are long and the distractions are many. But just being aware of Frankl's all-important space, I believe, is enough to start using it... sometimes. And starting is enough.

106 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page