Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Not About You (Part 1: The Road)

Judging everything you see in terms of how it affects you - as either good or bad, safe or unsafe, and desirable or to-be-avoided, is a primal response, as old as Man. It occurs quickly, automatically, and mostly under the radar of our conscious awareness. Much of the time, we go about our daily business without ever realizing that we’ve passed judgment on everything and everyone who crossed our path.

At some point later in our evolutionary process we developed reason, and it has obviously served us well.  However, reason being a later acquisition, if you like, its influence is often not as strongly felt as our more primal "me" impulses. (Am I safe? Where is my next meal coming from? Is he my enemy? etc.) Without the healthy dose of objectivity that reasoning provides, the me thinking becomes dominant. Me believes that it is the center or focus of everything that happens around it, and that everything is therefore done to it or for it.

All of us to varying degrees have experienced some me moments. (For some people it seems to be a way of life. We call them paranoid, or narcissistic.) You may have had a me moment when you suspected that you were drawing special attention from others at a restaurant, or when you felt sure that you were the butt of the joke when laughter broke out near you at a party. Hearing people whisper, me assumes it is the subject. A complement given to someone else is interpreted as a slap in me’s face.

It is both painful and stressful to live our lives under such assumptions, being guided by the me, when in fact most people have little or no interest in us  - because they, just as we are, are preoccupied with the state of their own lives. Whatever they do, it's really almost never about me.

One place the me has apparently achieved free reign is the highway, particularly at rush hour.  Obviously everyone else has gotten into their car that day just to p-ss me off! People are speeding (and so, usually, is me, but me doesn’t think about that part), they are cutting in front of me, passing me on the shoulder, and weaving in and out of lanes. Me takes it very personally. Me curses at them, honks the horn and raises your blood pressure several dangerous degrees. Reason has left the building!

If it could be heard over me’s raging, Reason would say, "Calm down, slow down, and you will get there safer and happier. Remember that some drivers may have urgent reasons to get somewhere in a hurry:  an emergency at home, a car that wouldn't start and made them late for a job interview, or maybe they simply really have to go, so to speak. No one is trying to make you angry.  It’s not about you, me. "

So, to reduce your stress and eliminate the bad mood you will inevitably be in when you finally arrive at work or at home, stop listening to me and make reason and objectivity your new driving partner. Remember not to take it personally when someone else drives like a jerk, because he or she may have a good excuse. Give them a break and take a deep breath instead of laying on your horn. It will be good for both of you, and a great way to start retraining your brain to start tuning out your irrational and trouble-causing me.

Good luck with your goal!

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