I went to target yesterday- at 5 pm, prime time, and it was such a mistake. The rush of holiday shopping has already started. I absolutely loathe it. I don’t enjoy shopping, or crowds, or overstimulation… I may have been the most miserable person in that store.
I found myself in an aisle with a woman and her little boy. They painstakingly chatted through a decision- I just wanted to pick up something they were standing in front of so I could get out of there! My overwhelm became impatience. Which became annoyance. And I’ve seen a lot of people behave rudely in response to these emotions this time of year. I could never allow myself to do that, but those negative feelings were still trapped there, in my mind, festering. And I recognized it. I made myself take a step back and think more about them than myself.
This woman probably did a great thing that day, teaching her son observation skills, reading and identifying objects, mindfulness in making decisions. Her methodical, verbal, slow shopping drove me up a wall, but she performed her job as a parent wonderfully. She got her son involved in the process. She gave him her time and attention. Like… how could I be mad? Exactly. Once I realized that, I smiled at them and moved right along.
I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. A silly little saying for kids about how to handle teasing, right? Not allowing others’ words to stick with you for too long.
But what if we invert the saying as a cautionary tale for ourselves? “The words I choose might hit you, but they’ll stay with me for longer.”
I think we have this idea that once thoughts leave our heads in the form of words, they lose their full power to affect us. We’ve extinguished the discomfort by throwing it out.
Neural pathways, aka thought formation, however, don’t work like that. Every time you have that negativity percolating in your brain and do nothing to halt it, you actually strengthen those neuron connections- habitualize the negativity. Therefore the internal creation of that negativity is so much more harmful than simply being forced into a reaction to it externally. The things I say to people, the way in which I use my words, affects not only the other person but also blows back tenfold on me. (not a real statistic, but you get the drift)
When I use the word negativity, it’s really an umbrella term for judgement, rudeness, snark, and ya know, just generally being a dick! When you don’t actively fight those tendencies, you create your own miserable mental environment. YOU are the one who has to constantly live in those thoughts.
I think we talk a lot about cultivating a positive mindset, but that also requires getting well-versed in your demons and learning how to tell them to, kindly, fuck off.
This is absolutely nothing new. See also: “you get out what you put in.” But how many of us use that as motivation, but don’t see it also as a caution for self-discipline? How many of us don’t call ourselves on our own bullshit quite as often as we should? (Still with grace and self-compassion, of course!)
Seriously, if you’re in a bad mood, be deliberately nice to someone. Challenge yourself to find a way to be conscientious and thoughtful. It can be the smallest thing.
And in a roundabout way, this alleviates the pressure to turn your own day around, control your own mind. Let other people help you- by helping them, first.
You never know, it may stick back to you. Worth a try, ain’t it?