I was having breakfast with my daughter this morning, and she was wearing a particularly cute dress (€5 Penneys…just has to be said doesn’t it). The dress had polka dots on it and she looked down delighted with herself and said “look mommy it’s raining!” I’m biased clearly but it was one of those adorable moments and it reminded me that there are so many different ways to look at the same thing. I automatically started to explain to her that the pattern was called polka dots but bit my lip. Her two year old eyes saw rain and that was that. And who’s to say she was wrong? Wasn’t she in a great mood admiring her new dress so actually did it even matter?
It made me think about how easy it is to jump to the obvious conclusion the older and more set in our ways we get. How we can get jaded without even realising it and in doing so miss out on seeing something new, or exciting or fresh or amusing. It takes much more effort to challenge our assumptions and to question something, than it does to follow along blindly out of habit.
Think about the last time you gave out about someone’s behaviour. Maybe a partner who you felt was being selfish or a colleague who you didn’t think was pulling their weight or a family member who always seems to expect so much of you. For me I always have to reign in my instant anger when someone drives badly. Like the man yesterday who was a) talking on his phone while driving b) blocking my right of way as he stopped in the yellow box and c) sporting a broken back light. My automatic reaction was just who did he think he was and I could feel my annoyance build. And then I tried to look at it another way because my anger was only harming me and he had no idea, nor did he care, that I was having these feelings. I started to think about what could potentially be going on for him. Not to excuse his dangerous driving by any means but to make me feel calmer. So while stuck at the now irritatingly red light I indulged in a little hypothetical brainstorming. I imagined that perhaps there’s a family emergency, maybe his wife was on the phone urgently needing him. Possibly he’s under serious pressure at work and he is just oblivious to what he is doing. Could he be unemployed and was late getting to a job interview as he didn’t expect the traffic to be so bad. Who knows? Yes of course the simple answer could be he’s just an inconsiderate driver but that’s not something I can control. What I could control was how I saw the situation. How I could avoid judging his actions simply because that judgement was getting me nowhere and it was only distracting me from my own driving.
It’s incredibly easy to get into a rage and it’s remarkable how soothing it is to choose not to get worked up about something you have no control over. To just take a few deep breaths and let it go. By humanising the situation and stopping our autopilot reactions, we can take the harm out of other people’s actions and so their impact on us lessens.
So next time you feel yourself flying into a rage or criticising someone, stop and think, should I insist like I always do on seeing polka dots, or could it just possibly be rain?