How does a person go from confusion to clarity? From restlessness and distraction to serenity? From conflict to peace? From noise to silence? From angst to joy? From entitlement to gratitude? From selfishness to service?
This transformation is the result of embracing learning and change.
I think that explaining the changes that happen when a person reaches emotional maturity is not as effective giving the person a means to obtain it.
Emotional maturity, for me, is what I term as living in The Gap (a state of inner space, not the store!). Viktor Frankl called it the space between stimulus and response.
The Gap is that split second between when something happens and our reaction to it.
- Our senses to register it as having happened (stimulus)
- They send signals to our brain
- We sift through our mental database for a similar experience and choose the best possible reference. We remember what we did before, or what we have been taught, or what we saw someone else do in a similar situation (even someone on TV).
- We to apply to this situation (response)
When we act from memory, when we remember a similar experience and act from it, we call this reacting.
Athletes work on their reaction time, repeating the same action until it becomes what we call Second Nature. Doctors and pilots and musicians and parents and factory workers and dancers, like Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail, practice their moves until they become so smooth, so easy, it is like they always knew how to do this thing.
But they didn’t. Even with natural ability, they still had to learn the moves. And it took years, even decades, to master this skill.
Living in The Gap gives us access to First Nature. This is who we are before we become domesticated, shaped, molded, and folded into a predictable version that is acceptable to mainstream society.
The original Big Sky country, First Nature is a space where the wildest, most courageous, curious, creative, and passionate hearts roam free. It is a space of calm, and quiet. Time becomes null in this void. It is Sanctuary.
It is where the most honorable and compassionate part of us, the part I call our Constant Traveler, awaits.
We must come to our Constant Traveler’s space. I learned that attempting to draw her “out here,” into the world, breaks the connection.
I spent decades catching only flashes of her…being with her just long enough to know it was possible but never being able to stay for more than an hour or two. I spent years yearning for the delight of this place that I knew existed but in which I couldn’t live…until Viktor Frankl taught me through his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, about the space between stimulus and response.
I began to extend the time in between when something happened and my reaction to it. It was hard. It hurt. I had to bite my tongue, as my Irish grandmother would have described it, and wrestle with my feelings over what I believed to be an injustice.
But I wanted it more than anything. I had to desire peace more than I desired defense.
I studied the work of psychologists Carl Rogers and William Glasser, and teachers like Jiddu Krishnamurti, Wayne Dyer, and Alan Watts, as well as other great thinkers and teachers. Gradually The Gap began to expand.
The Gap is the space where I learned how to shut my mouth and listen.
Emotionally mature people value The Gap above all else. They use time wisely. They take the time they need to consider an appropriate response and do not let the drama of a situation drag them from this sanctuary.
Essentially, it is where the subject learns to be the observer by positioning you, as A Course In Miracles describes it, above the battleground.
This is how life has changed for me. I am no nobody’s guru, but I do enjoy living in The Gap.
Try it on and see if it fits you.