Critical Incidents and Anger

Posted on Jun 19 in Blog, Featured by

Today’s world of chaotic change and barrage of rapidly changing expectations seemingly is affecting everybody. Many of us “major in minors,” the rest of us “minor in majors.”

 

Stress level rising? Do you feel your personality shifting and not quite sure you like what you see? Feeling thin-skinned or feeling the need to control yourself more than usual? Your future look dimmer?

But think about it. Really, what’s gone astray here?

The other day I was traveling with a woman I know for a quick R&R trip to Charleston. We were taking a brief respite from our normal life, chilling. Out there on the interstate was another car. With a not so chilled driver at its helm. In the left hand lane and, ironically, at going at a snail’s pace. And me wanting to pass – on the left as I was taught (a long, long time ago). So without thinking I flashed him from behind with one sole flash of the headlights. Wrong move! From that point on for the next several minutes he played tag with me. In front of me, behind me, beside me. Close-up. Then came the things tossed out of his windows at my car. What could have ended up badly didn’t. He exited. I continued….

And I thought about this. What could possibly have moved him to see me as the enemy. Physiologically, I know exactly how his brain was operating then. In fight-flight-or freeze mode. And he’d chosen the first and the second. I’d threatened something deep in his personality with my one blink of the headlights. And I was the Enemy. He’d had a bad day at work.

How we let our environment affect us is a choice. There are tools that help. Any number of tools, even easily accessible, can be found on the web (go to mindtools.com, stevepavel.com, both great self-development sites!) But in the end, it’s really about choice. I repeat: how we let our environment affect us is A CHOICE. It is NOT A FACT. Taking responsibility for our lives is a stance, an attitude. And there’s the rub.

My responsibility in the interstate scenario was not having acknowledged the “new rules” of the road (abhorrent to me) which might have made it OK to pass over on the right. His responsibility was letting my flick of the light trigger him and get away with him. I contend that all of this would not have happened if we’d just let our frontal cortex take over and reason it out and chill. Two, three, four seconds would have done the trick. Just a couple of breaths. In the larger scheme of things not too difficult. But, for many of us, absolutely impossible what with all the other problems in our lives accumulating piece by piece, bit by bit over the course of a stressed out business day.

Grandma was right! Take 3 deep breaths, Bonny.

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