I whipped my head around, blood beginning to boil, while my foot simultaneously aggressed the brake. My body lurched forward to kiss the steering wheel with such passion that my whole torso was forced to partake. The vehicle in front of me nosedived into my lane, his rear bumper and my headlight close enough to exchange the slightest of whispers. This asshole just almost caused a gnarly accident! I yelled to myself in my head. How careless?!
I reassembled my presence at the wheel and continued on my way, relaxing back into the mold of my seat. The frustration escaped me and I tuned back into my thoughts. It was all a matter of seconds: I’m driving along perfectly content, a car cuts in front of me (which I automatically assume to be operated by a man), I slam the brakes, my body is jerked forwards, we are both okay, I settle in, then resume my steady thinking. What does this tell me?
The event was completely neutral. My reaction and interpretation added the soundtrack. Let’s say someone is walking at a completely neutral pace in a movie. Whether you add a dramatic, fast-paced track or a slow, solemn song can make all the difference to how we interpret what’s happening. This is the exact same thing with people. Our inner world adds the soundtrack to what individuals do around us. So, how do we dissect an action, take it for what it is, and perceive it in a constructive manner?
Take a deep breath and don’t automatically react to the situation. Your initial assumptions completely change the action or event. Me assuming the driver was a male or that they were trying to cut me off and irritate me increased the tempo of the soundtrack.
Tell yourself what happened
Give yourself a completely objective account of whatever has occurred. A car cut me off. My friend made a joke. I have yet to get a response from a dude. No matter the situation, just tell it to yourself like it is in its most basic, neutral form.
Tune into your emotional state
Let yourself feel the impact of the event. Notice I’m not saying to react in light of how it made you feel, but just acknowledge how you’re feeling. I am irritated this car cut in front of me. I am hurt because my friend made a joke. I am anxious because this boy isn’t responding. You’re killing it so far, next step.
Think about their intention
Consider why the person did what they did. Most times, we ascribe intention to situations which come from our insecurities and inner turmoil. Furthermore, save yourself some grief. If it’s something small in the large scheme of life, just give the benefit of the doubt and move on. Maybe they’re late for work so they accidentally cut me off and actually feel bad about it. Maybe I seemed upset and my friend was just trying to make me laugh. Maybe he’s busy and hasn’t had a chance to check his phone. This isn’t to say some people don’t have other intentions. Maybe they’re a selfish driver and just wanted to speed through traffic. Maybe my friend is insecure so they want to make me feel bad. Maybe he thinks I’m weird and is done talking to me. But notice the difference in how you even feel reading those polarized intentions.
If you have a tendency to interpret things like the last scenario, you need to ask yourself why. Now, sometimes people don’t have good intentions and you can tell. But, why is this striking a nerve? If you know you’re in touch with who you are and you have good intentions with others, it shouldn’t matter what people in the cheap seats are doing or saying. Know your worth and work on those things that make you a little extra heightened to situations.
Would you rather look at what’s happening positively or negatively? Ultimately, you can’t change the situation. The situation is neutral and has occurred. You now know if there is something in you that you are going to tune into and work on. You’ve become aware of what’s actually happening. Now, you get to decide how you interact with it. Things happen and you’re never going to be able to change what motivated someone to do something, only they can do that. But, you CAN choose how you internalize and react to the situation. It’s okay to be emotive, but don’t exhaust energy on the things that aren’t going to be relevant in the future. What is relevant is your mindset.
Taking a deep breath, I realized the car that cut me off did just that. They cut me off. I noticed I was irritated because I think an aggressive, chauvinistic, male driver ignorantly almost caused an accident. I thought this because I’ve seen men be aggressive and rude while driving and because I’ve witnessed accidents where this is the case. But ultimately I didn’t know who was operating the vehicle. I didn’t know their story nor intention. Either they did it because they were just an asshole or maybe they didn’t even notice they’d cut me off until I honked, because they were late to work. You just never truly know. I’ll never get the chance to be inside their head. Meanwhile, I was okay, they were okay, and it’s not going to matter in the long run. I the conscious choice to interpret their actions with a positive outlook. If it’s the contrary, they’re the ones living with themselves.
Events that occur around us are neutral. Death is death. A breakup is a breakup. A bad grade is a bad grade. Getting cut off in traffic is just that. We decide how we interpret what’s happening and why it’s happening. When we interpret occurrences in an impartial manner, we get to decide the soundtrack we ascribe to it. What kind of song do you want to hear when you’re walking through life? What kind of song do you want others to hear when they encounter your life? What kind of song do you want our culture to have as we navigate this bizarre concept called life?