I’m furious. I’m staring inside my mailbox. My package is supposed to be there. More specifically, the headphones that I ordered about a week ago. The email that I got yesterday said “delivered”. In all of about five minutes I went from excited, to disappointed that they didn’t arrive, to fear that they were delivered and I didn’t know where they were. That’s where I would have liked to have stopped. My emotions that is. A simple pause would have sufficed. Take a breath. But instead, what happens (especially these days) is that fear rolls right into anger as easily as a train rolling into a station.
My brain (like many of our brains) wants certainty. It frantically searches for a “story” to tell itself to get that certainty. Instead of possibilities, it begins writing an “emotional fiction.”
The vague memory of somebody coming by the house earlier this morning to pick up some wood turns into accusation. My brain does the math. Two plus two equals…absolute certainty that this guy (who I don’t know) stole my headphones. I can literally see it in my mind. The evil mustache twisting. Him standing at the mailbox, looking sinisterly both ways before reaching his little grubby hand into my mailbox. Smirking as he grabs my package, and peels out of my driveway (my brain goes for the visualization of the quick getaway…borrowing from the all the movies I’ve seen). I feel the anger intensify into fury. My face feels hot.
I check my email again, to see if I missed something (anything to get me out of this burning hell my mind is creating). I read over exactly when and where they delivered my package. It says “office”. Wait, what? Crap. I probably still have my old office address down in my Amazon account. I drive to my old office, jump out of my car, and check my old mailbox. Nada.
I now scrap the emotional fiction that was burning the inside of my cranium for a fresh story that will support my fear and anger. Who would’ve taken it out of an office mailbox? I begin my line up of the “usual suspects. All the ever-so-shady characters (complete nonsense) who could have stooped so low. I bet it’s–My reason shows up for a second and points out the hole in my newly formed emotional fiction.
Nobody’s working at the office. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. No one could have taken anything.
I scour the email for a tracking number. Whose fault is this and where are those “all-to-important” headphones! It was sent by UPS. Of course! That evil organization that never delivers anything on time (again, completely fictional, by my anger and fear needs a place to go). I find the number and call, so that I can be furious at some well-deserving (nope) UPS worker. They said the package was “delivered” to the post “office” today. Delivered to the Post Office? It seems my package was delivered to the post office. There is a bit of delay with all that’s going on right now, the sweet and composed woman on the other side of the phone explains and assures me they’ll most likely be there today or tomorrow, if not, please call back.
I feel embarrassed. Young. Nothing was stolen. No one took anything for me. Every emotional fiction my mind conjured came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles of any event in my life that actually happened. All the feelings and emotions of something real and tangible, as if it were God’s truth. And truthfully? It did happen for me. Because, for 45 minutes I had created mental fiction that was as real as anything I’ve ever felt.
How many times have I done this? How many times have we all done this? It is so much easier to create certainty where there isn’t any. Allow our minds to create their own little private realities filled with the fear and anxiety that are fed from the unknowns and the uncertainty all around us. Before we allow our emotions to create realities for us, we should simply and gently remind ourselves to…
Pause, breathe, and re-center.
Pausing before taking action–whether that action is a physical one or the creation of mental fiction is a true act of kindness to yourself. It is a way to honor your own ability to be aware of yourself when the alarm is set off in your mind from the very real (and sometimes exceptionally useful) emotion of fear. Pausing leaves space. Space for the uncertainty that has triggered the emotional distress. Now that kind of uncertainty is extremely uncomfortable and that is why it’s best to follow it with…
Breathing. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Basically you can think again. Literally see possibilities in a situation that may have been blocked from you because of intense fear and uncertainty. This gives us the opportunity to…
Re-center. Take a moment and literally focus your attention to the center of your abdomen. Remind yourself that you have the final say over how you think, feel, and act. Reassure yourself that, although you may not have control over the situation that you find yourself in, you always, always have control over how you respond to it.
Now, I am 1000% sure this will not be the last time I jump to a conclusion because of fear. I’m positive there will be times it leaves me reeling in anger and frustration because of an emotional fiction that I’ve created (over headphones, no less). But, with a bit of gentleness and willingness to pause, breathe and re-center, I am much more confident in my ability to come to the ever-helpful conclusion that getting my headphones the day that they are supposed to be delivered is not the end of the world.