What exists between stimulus and response?

In Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl states that what exists between stimulus and response is responsibility. How we choose to respond to stimuli is what gives our lives meaning.

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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.

Between stimulus and response, Frankl says, lies responsibility. Each individual has the power and responsibility to choose how to respond to whatever situation fate has placed them in. Even if we cannot change our situation or stimulus, we can change our attitude.

Each human being's responsibility is unique. It is up to each person to determine the best way to respond to their stimuli. In some cases, it is best to take immediate action. In other cases, it makes far more sense to stand back and contemplate what is happening. In the case of suffering, often the only possible response is to endure it.

Because a chief subject of Frankl's book is the suffering he and others like him endured in Nazi concentration camps, he focuses on this particular stimuli. He says that each person's suffering is singular, as is how they cope with it. How we respond to suffering helps define who we are.

Frankl says that he and other prisoners decided not to turn their backs on the suffering they experienced in the camps but to face it head on and see it as offering "opportunities for achievement." For Frankl, this meant an opportunity to use his psychotherapeutic abilities to give his fellow prisoners hope and keep them from suicide.

In a larger sense, what Frankl learned in the camps applies to all of life. What shapes our lives and gives them meaning is how we choose to respond to our circumstances.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 24, 2021
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