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Let it be. Thursday June 20, 2013

Are you familiar with what's been called that Sunday feeling? It's a form of anxiety that comes from being aware of the emptiness of your life once the working week is over. You feel bored, directionless and apathetic, filled with a pervading sense of discontent, all arising from a feeling of meaninglessness.

The phenomenon was first written about by Vicktor Frankl more 60 years ago. Frankl was a truly remarkable man, a Holocaust survivor who became a renowned psychiatrist and humanist. His book Man's Search For Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, a reason to continue living, in even the most challenging conditions.

In one of his quotes, he puts his finger on the central issue."Between stimulus and response there's a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and our freedom."

In other words, he says there's a moment of choice before we react to the stress and pain in life. Mostly, however, we're unaware of this space because we're trapped in habitual patterns of reaction.

For example, you are driving along when another car cuts you up and almost causes an accident. You curse the driver. Anger boils up within. Your heart rate surges. You grip the wheel more tightly. You think: "That driver needs needs to be taught a lesson". You speed up so you can overtake and stare him down.

It all happens instantly and automatically, but if you look for it, there is a space between stimulus and reaction. You could have thought to yourself. "You know, reacting to the other driver will only increase my stress, so what's the point?" You might even think: "He's obviously not having a very good day to be driving like that. I hope his day gets better".

In that moment you are sitting in the space between stimulus and response. You can notice what's happening to you physically as the stress reaction kicks in and choose to take a few deep breaths, let your shoulders relax and allow the incident to evaporate.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 7:52am

Thank you for this, I am not particularly religious but like many people say a little prayer when the emotional pain is at its height and I don't know how to cope. I am so angry and hurt at someone who has betrayed me and I want to lash out and really hurt them back - this was the first thing I looked at this morning and it feels as if it's a message just for me in anwer to my prayer on how to cope! Thanks I hope it will help me get through the day and maybe someone else out there?

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 9:23am

A true gem of a message. Beautifully composed.
The idea of expanding the 'space' between stimulus and reaction is so useful.
'Count to ten' concept but phrased in a visual way.

Julia Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 9:31am

I like the first part of this quote.. "Between stimulus and response there's a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response..." It applies more to emotional responses which is what Andrew is getting at. Yesterday however I was driving along a country lane and a Land Rover came towards me at frightening speed on my side of the road. If I hadn't swerved instantly into the ditch,God knows what would have happened..I probably wouldn't be here writing this for one thing. So the flight or fight response, (no space between stimulus and response in that situation!) worked very well for me.
This is an interesting blog Andrew. I think I do tend to react too quickly to emotional stimuli and particularly demands made on me.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 9:49am

I'd be interested to know how others deal with that 'empty' Sunday feeling. I personally manage by keeping busy and I do have meaning in my life. However, Sundays are never easy days for me. Any advice out there?

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 9:52am

Thanks for reminding me of Viktor Frankl's book, I read it some years ago and found it very helpful. I am going to find it and read it again and would recommend it to all. Thanks again for a veryb helpful post

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 10:40am

What a great message. It really stopped me in my haste and I had to read it slowly and thoroughly to allow myself time to absorb the full meaning. Until this morning I wasn't familiar with this quote but I will carry it with me always.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 10:41am

A very quick , and no advice - but will come back later. I too struggle with that Sunday feeling and always thought I was weird because of this. What's not to like about time off, time for yourself...?
It's a relief to see it described as an experience that others share too.

Julia Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 1:33pm

I have not heard of the Sunday feeling being applied to the feelings Andrew describes. I have never particularly liked Sundays but always thought it was because of school or work the next day. Friday evenings and Saturdays were great but Sunday although a free day usually had that air of foreboding of the next day, Monday to come. Also shops used not to be open and still aren't in many countries and also Sunday is a day for Church for many religions. I guess for people with families, Sunday used to be essentially a family day which can be another source of alienation and discontent for those living alone.
I can't quite get my head around the association between the Sunday feeling (which I do recognise) and the choice we have to respond. Are you saying Andrew that that Sunday feeling is like a Sunday which is generally a day of not much activity and therefore a void/ space? My initial reading of your blog with Frankl's quote (I have ordered his book) made sense to me. Now I read it again and noticed Sundays mentioned I am not so clear. It's probably my fault. I am a bit slow on the uptake today. Sorry!

charley03 Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 3:03pm

Thank you for this - I was searching for something to read and I will find this book. Needed this today as I can get that Sunday feeling any day at the moment a feeling of disconnect, that everything is happening at arms length from me.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 5:43pm

I gave up work in April due to illness and found that I had that Sunday feeling for about four weeks. Once I let go and relaxed my life has been full, busy but also a lot calmer...I know that I am lucky to be able to give up work and I do need to find work but I think that often we don't know how to stop. Mindfulness is a wonderful way of learning to be "in the present".

Anonymous Thu, Jun 20th 2013 @ 10:03pm

Thanks so much for this great quote from Vicktor Frankl whom I first heard of through Chuck Spezzano in a London workshop in 1996; we can all choose to use the space "Between stimulus and response.."

Anonymous Fri, Jun 21st 2013 @ 11:00am

A different Victor Frankl quote arrived in my inbox this morning, it gave a moment or of thought and reflection.

'What is to give light must endure burning.' -Viktor Frankl, author, neurologist and psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor (1905-1997)

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