“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 Frankl, Holocaust and concentration camp survivor, and celebrated neurologist and psychiatrist.

Reading about the amazing Viktor Frankl recently, and this quote from him, I got to thinking about the ABC of stress. Here’s an example:

A – Activating event (someone ‘cuts us up’ on the motorway)

B – Belief about the event (‘How dare they?’; ‘They’re disrespecting me’; ‘They shouldn’t do that’ etc)

C – Consequences as a result (Anger; Frustration; Indignation)

The emotions produced here are unhelpful and counter-productive, and can go on to affect our mood, stay with us, affect our behaviour and so on. 

What the ABC model demonstrates is that the consequences at C are mediated by how we interpret what’s happened, the meaning we ascribe to it, and that there’s no automatic, direct relationship between the event at A and the response at C.

Naturally, we can apply the same rule to any ‘activating event’, other minor or not-so-minor matters, provoking more pernicious and long-lasting consequences for us emotionally as we go about our lives.

We’re not robots; awful things happen sometimes; we can go through a rough patch personally – all of these things and more can make it difficult for us to handle adversity how we’d like to.

That said, let’s remember that we’ll be more adept at managing our emotions if we can allow some space to choose a helpful response as and when necessary.