One thing I’ve been guilty of for my whole life (and still am, time to time) is getting angry for no reason.
The problem here is that emotions are contagious.
Especially to people weaker than you.
The stoic redwood, yeah he’ll be fine.
The three kids who see you knock over a tip jar because your half-frap-skim-achino didn’t have the caramel?
They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.
Really quick, try and remember a time when an ‘adult’ was a terrible person in front of you:
Easy, isn’t it?
Now, try to think of a time when an adult was cool and collected, and you felt totally at peace.
Probably tougher, isn’t it?
“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Chuck Palahniuk
That’s why it’s so important to understand your emotions.
To you, it’s a bad day. To someone else, it’s a permanent memory (at best! at worst, it’s an example you’re setting!)
Most people don’t realize how important they are.
Because yes, to most people, you’re a ghost, a piece of furniture in the room.
I’ve struggled with years (decades…) to understand my emotions, and I’ve finally figured out how to not get emotional when TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN!
It’s going to sound silly, but like the ‘Make More, Spend Less’ Budget, things don’t have to be complicated to be true, or to be helpful.
Here’s how I destroyed my road-rage:
Stop. Writing. Stories.
It’s a human feature, one of the most innate desires we have as people, the one to write stories and build narratives about the things happening around us.
If I don’t consciously turn my brain into ‘no-story’ mode, it kicks back in and I notice my negative emotions come flooding through, like burst dam.
When I used to drive, I would think:
“Aaah this asshole, cutting me off, what the hell!! I know he saw me and he just wanted to think of himself over eeeeverybody else”
“Jesus H Christ, why is this grandpa even on the road! He probably started his first car with a whip!”
I’d get in a terrible mood, and I know it had to be spilling into the interactions I had with people I care about after (and while) driving to meet them.
“Here comes the angry guy, hooray!” – No one ever
So here’s what I do now.
I’m the worlds most boring narrator. I just think about what is happening.
“That car is slowing down.”
“I didn’t leave early enough to maintain a safe speed. This is a learning lesson, schedule more time for the trip next time.”
“That man didn’t stop at the stop sign, he doesn’t pay attention when driving. Keep a safe distance from him.”
When I shifted from a narrative, needing to explain everything, to just speaking in facts, my body wouldn’t let me get angry.
It just didn’t happen.
When you don’t let your brain make stories like that up, it’s like taking down your sails and turning on your ship’s propeller: you go exactly where you want to go.
This isn’t the end-all-be-all of how to never be upset again, but it sure does work for me.
If you’re looking to slowly introduce this into your life, don’t do it every single time you get on the road.
Just do it when you drive to the grocery store. That’s it, just to and from the grocery store.
Consciously ask yourself after the trip “Am I in a better mood now or before I left?”
Try it for the next 10 trips.
Then see if you can do it when you drive to the grocery store and gym.
Then see if you can do it every time you drive.
Then see if you can do it all the time.
Until next time,