For me personally and for a person I am coaching for depression, the concept of stimulus and response is one of the most powerful tools in dealing with stress and depression. Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People reflects on a single paragraph that caught his eye when he was paging through books in a college library. It basically said that there is a gap or a space between stimulus and response, and that the key
to both our growth and our happiness is how we use that space. Covey says, “I reflected on it again and again, and it began to have a powerful effect on my paradigm of life.” Let’s look at two charts that help explain the concept.
The first chart is a person that reacts almost immediately to stimulus. Such a person is labeled reactionary. Let me use a real situation that happened to me. Through my fault, a laundry tub in our townhome overflowed for fifteen minutes and ended up causing damage to our townhome of more than $10,000. If I were a reactionary person, as shown below, I would have immediately thought how this had ruined what I had planned for the rest of the day (as I had to soak up the water left on the surface of five different rooms), how expensive it was going to be to restore (I was estimating in the thousands), how mad my wife was going to be with me, and who do I call to take care of this, amongst other fears and anxiety. My chest would start to constrict from the stress, I would be short of breath, I wouldn’t sleep well that night, and that would cause me to head into depression, which would cause me additional stress.
The second chart is what actually happened to me. I did have to soak up the water right away, which was a good response to the stimulus of the flooding. But then I sat down and thought about it. I had made a mistake, but that mistake didn’t have to define my life for the next month. I thought that I had been involved in worse situations than this and came out of them restored, and that’s what would happen here. I didn’t know exactly how this was all going to be resolved, but I believed that it would be resolved, and I needed to be patient with myself. Besides, people were more important than things, and if I let this get to me, I would zap my strength for maintaining strong relationships to those I love and strength to continue in my ministry to the depressed. I put the whole matter in God’s hands, cleared my mind, and the realization of what to do just happened, as I believed it would. My youngest son, who is an adjuster for an insurance company, called me after I called my wife, and suggested I call Servpro because he always called them for restoration of water and fire damage and they were very good. He even called to find out there was a franchise within twenty miles and gave me their phone number. Then I went to bed and slept like a baby.
Servpro was there early the next morning, tearing up floors, setting in fans and dehumidifiers, and otherwise drying up the moisture that had gone through the floors. I called my insurance agent about what coverage I had and how it would coordinate with my townhome association insurance. The net result was a maximum of $500 that the damage would cost me. Insurance covered the rest. My wife was very mad at me, but I reasoned she had the right to be mad and eventually she would come around, so I didn’t become defensive with her; I gave her space to vent and fume before she could see things in a more clear light. Yes, there was still stress involved, but I controlled the amount of stress by right thinking, and I didn’t even approach the fringes of depression and anxiety.
STIMULUS > CHOICE >RESPONSE
This is such an important concept that I will spend at least another blog talking more about it.