A few weeks ago, I was driving home in rush hour with my toddler in the backseat when he started whining and, eventually, screaming. As my stress levels skyrocketed, frustration overcame me, but mentally cursing at the drivers around me wasn’t changing the tantrum happening in the backseat.
I realized there was only one thing I could do to end the tantrum—sing.
And it worked! But only because I wasn’t all riled up, wishing to change the present moment and resisting reality—as if I had magical powers to clear traffic with my thoughts.
Fighting reality starts a downward spiral of suck, creating an even worse reality.
I’d been missing acceptance.
This mental battle happens to me daily—at the supermarket, in my marriage, at a crowded party, at church, etc.
The trick is knowing the difference between what’s actually happening and my perception of it. Nothing is good or bad. Reality simply is.
Chances are you’ve been fighting an ongoing boxing match with reality, too.
When I was cursing everyone in sight with my stress levels through the car roof, all I was doing was resisting reality. I was resisting what was happening right in front of me, as if thinking about all the “what ifs” would magically clear traffic and change the world for me.
Why are we all so ridiculous?
I have a few theories about why we do this, actually. Here’s the first one…
Reason #1: Fear!
Part of me thinks secretly we’re all scared to know the truth—the truth behind why we do things, why we react a certain way, why we are the way we are.
Mostly, we’re scared to know the truth because the truth hurts.
Like how we unconsciously say things we shouldn’t or gossip as a way to get closer to people. (Or is that just me? Oops, my bad!)
The only way to improve the parts of ourselves that we usually try to deny is to look straight at them instead of away. The path to better is through.
So that’s one theory. Here’s the other…
Reason #2: Oblivious!
Most people are absolutely oblivious to the workings of their own minds. We don’t take Emotional Intelligence 101 in school (though we probably should). We walk around giving in to our moods and our whims as if that’s the only way.
Self-awareness is a skill we don’t know we don’t have.
I’m the perfect example of this. The reason I hadn’t “woken up” to the ridiculousness of fighting reality is because I didn’t know another option was available. When I realized there was another way (a better way), I was bewildered, wondering:
“How did I live like that for so long?”
I was clueless—absolutely unaware of my self.
It takes a ton of constant self-awareness to realize what’s going on in your head and snap yourself out of it, which is very difficult. Every time I have bouts of anger or sadness or worry, it happens because I’ve forgotten (even for a moment) that there’s another way, that fighting reality isn’t my only option.
But I think there’s a way to work at it…
How to stop the ridiculousness for good
Like I mentioned, the traffic incident happened to me just a few weeks ago. I’m no expert at this, and I’m still working at how to accept reality as it happens in real time. There are times when I rock at this, and times when I suck.
Compared to a few years ago, I’ve come a long way. I can feel it in the peace of mind that I enjoy most of the time. (It’s delicious!)
I’ll summarize the “big picture” steps I’ve taken to make it happen. Here goes…
Step #1: Wake up!
Taking into consideration that we spend 24/7 inside our own brains, you’d think that we’d have a good grip on what happens inside our mind… Not so! Most of the time, we have no idea we’re even thinking. Our thoughts and emotions just kind of ramble on like a river that can’t be stopped.
But just because that’s how we’ve done things in the past doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it!
It’s time to wake up and start paying attention to what’s going on in your head and your heart. In the words of yogi Swami Kripalu:
The easiest way to do this (especially if you’ve never really tried to be self-aware in the past) is to ask yourself why—all the time, about everything.
“Why am I reacting this way?”
“Why did I just say that?”
“Why does this bother me?”
“Why am I feeling nervous?”
“Why did I just remember that?”
You get the picture!
By asking yourself the reason behind what you do, say, feel, and think, you’ll start digging deeper into what you may have been hiding from in the past.
Step #2: Accept!
This may be the more difficult step. At least it is for me!
Sometimes, after we become more self-aware, we run into things we’re ashamed of or embarrassed by. A rite of passage, I’d say! But I love the concept that, no matter what we find hiding in our closets, we’re not stuck being the same person forever.
That’s why I love this quote:
So, if it’s your choice, what are your options?
Once you’ve become aware of what’s going on inside you and what’s driving your reactions, it’s time to look around you and identify your best course of action. You have two options:
Accept what’s going on around you, or change it by taking action.
Honestly? That’s it. Our entire humanity could be improved if we agreed upon those two options. But, instead of those two, most of us focus on a false third option: resisting what’s going on by feeling stress / anxiety / depression / anger / etc. Pretty useless if you ask me!
Don’t waste your time resisting reality. Either roll with it or change it.
Follow these two steps, and the ridiculousness in your life will surely nosedive.
It won’t be easy, of course. I have many more traffic jams and rush hours to get through in my lifetime, but it’s up to me to face them with peace of mind.
I challenge you to do the same—traffic jam, or whatever other frustration you’re facing.