Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl (1946) founder of logotherapy, which was used for OCD many decades ago long before exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), shared this powerful view of our ability to make choices:
“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.”
In OCD terms, if we imagine the stimulus as the trigger and the response as the compulsion, the space between these two is our ability to choose. To choose if we do that compulsion or if we make a choice towards our values and goals. This choice is also acknowledged in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). They call it the choice point. In any given moment we are in this choice point, and we can either choose to move towards what we what, or away from it.
It may not feel like there is any choice, however there is. The more we practice noticing that space between stimulus and response, the better able we are to respond to the stimulus with a response that will serve us in the long run.
Hope that helps.
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