My position is that we’re not just lookie-loos enjoying the spectacle of someone else’s misfortune. I’m not naïve enough to discount that this behavior is probably a part of some human’s nature; I’m just saying it’s also an important learning behavior as well. Another aspect of the human’s being is the fact that we’re able to learn from watching, listening as others go through an experience. We don’t have to have that first-hand, personal encounter in order to determine “good for us” or “bad for us”; pull this into my life or avoid.
The sight of something going awry immediately connects us with a sense of place-holding: I’m here. That’s happening there. A part of me is also there just by my thinking about it. In my consideration of what I’ve become aware of, an emotion is engaged. I’ve just had a vicarious experience.
Thoughts and emotions act as a barometer of our state of being. And, while they reflect who we are back to ourselves, they’re only meant to give us our baseline on an issue (a starting point). They are not responsible, alone, for our behavior. There is something unique about the human being in our ability to…pause. We have a conscious choice, rather than just instinct (i.e., The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).
So, what’s your first thought when you see a fellow motorist acting badly?Are you able to self-reflect on what you just thought and encourage yourself to make any necessary changes so that you don’t act on a knee-jerk reaction to do harm? When you see a motorist in distress? What are you thinking, feeling when you pass a scene replete with police cruisers, a fire truck and ambulance? Do you avoid any conscious thought, which is a form of self-neglect? Do you avoid the inner mirror we are all born with?
We’re having experiences all the time, and we’re having thoughts and emotions about those experiences. Tuning into ourselves is like pulling up our own GPS that tells us where we are in our personal growth process. However, some of us are so out of touch with ourselves that we unconsciously depend on what’s happening outside of our own persons to experience learning – being alive. Turn within. Listen. The truth of you is there to guide, instruct and keep you safe.
Ever call a friend to share? Ever e-mail and use an emoticon to let someone you trust in on a momentously important something? The earliest and most constant form of therapy was ever the good friend, the trusted family member. It’s that hand holding yours in a hospital corridor while waiting to hear. It’s the ages-old healing connection that occurs when sharing.
Only another human being can bring a person to the completion of a cycle of healing. This is because, when sharing, we invite compassion. When sharing, our connectedness in the moment births empathy.
Historically, story tellers (i.e., Mark Twain, Hans Christian Andersen), bards (song writers and musicians) and the compassionate amongst us have played the role of healers. When we hear a song, we’re connecting with either the artist, the melody, the lyrics or everything all at once and our being releases or awakens an emotion (joy, sorrow, bittersweet acceptance).
Historically, banishment and isolation have been viewed as grievous punishments. We aren’t meant to be alone in body, mind or in our hearts. We are so connected, a faceless stranger can create a marked change for the better in our day. When I slowed to make room for a pickup truck from a lane merging into mine (despite the rush hour and that traffic was bumper to bumper), a hand rose from the driver side’s window and waved from side to side in a gesture of ‘thank you.’ He shared an acknowledgement of our nonverbal connection- that I had acted on his behalf.
I don’t think we credit these small gestures for what they can mean in somebody’s day. My hope is that this blog serves as that wave to you at the end of your day.
We are social creatures one and all. Contact with one another is a hard-wired condition of our well being. On the road, we use a myriad of signals: horn honks, brake taps, a flash of headlights. Signals give clues as to our intentions… but signals may mislead.
So, is the white F150 going to switch lanes or not? Unsure, I slow to make room. However, within mileage, it seemed a fair bet that the F150 was telling me not what the driver intended to do via the turn signal but what had already been done. Was the driver being deceptive? More likely, the driver didn’t have anyone in mind outside of whoever was in the cab. Thoughtless self-absorption in motion. And, for the time it takes to finally be clear about what’s really happening, there’s uncertainty. I never knew what the driver looked like and likely was never even noted by the F150’s driver, but our interaction was real nonetheless.
Most often in our dealings with one another, when people send out conflicting signals, it’s because they’re not aware they’re doing so. There’s an unawareness of the bigger picture outside of themselves due to denial. Or they’re engaging in sheer childish willfulness. Like when you’re in a roundabout with two lanes and four exits, and the driver in the inner lane suddenly switches to the outer to make an exit, endangering others. When drivers are not keeping to the rules of an interaction, there’s anxiety. An understanding, a promise, is not being kept. It’s clear your welfare isn’t a consideration. But, if they are not acting to keep you safe, they’re not acting in their own best interest either. That fact rarely occurs to them.
The ability to safely reach one’s destination depends on knowing what another person is going to do or not do. We thrive on communication with one another but sometimes there’s a disconnect. If you are being endangered, the driver is also inflicting danger upon their own person. The disconnect is more often within the driver than a willful act against you.
Yield when it matters too much to the other. Bless and let them go their way. Give thanks you get to go yours, despite the disconnected drivers.
One of my favorite memories is that of walking along a narrow dirt road lined on both sides with tall pine trees, their brown trunks stained here and there with green. Brown and green mixed with sky’s blue and clay’s red. Beautiful.
Uncle had a big, very old pickup truck that navigated the intractible ruts of that dirt road. He would yell, “Hang on!” And we did for dear life. All except one, who was sitting near the tailgate; the one without a gate. He lost his grip in a spat with a cousin when the ol’ pickup got into an argument with a brutish rut. “Ohhhh!” And, “Uncle! One’s gone over!”
Now, ruts are all about taking a person low. They’re all about the false promise of rises that crumble under you. Sometimes concrete-hard, the only way to navigate them is to go where they want to take you or… you must slowly, carefully navigate the politics of them; otherwise, you may end up with a flat tire and getting nowhere. Slowly…carefully, does it.
Ruts are born of complacency in doing what’s been done before. They’re about traveling the bottom rather than making the effort and rising, after rising so many times before to false promises, and sliding to bottom again. Folks can go anywhere from annoyed to frustrated, angry, scared, then desperate. But, if you can see a rut patch up ahead, you can prepare, think it through. Stay calm (even if a bit tense) and hold on firm to your path, your destination, with enough flexibility to change course a bit, if needed, and navigate your way through.
We’ll leave the light on…