Monday, July 1, 2013

Road Rage, Shame and Freedom

My wife honked her horn, a light tap, aimed at the car in front of her today to remind him that the light had turned green.

The guy immediately became upset and carried it with him down the road, looking over at us, arms flailing with an angry face, as if she had just punched him in the stomach and ran away.

I probably would have reacted similarly to the angry guy in that moment, reacting with a "Have a little patience," or "Screw you, I'm going." The thing I've learned is that these moments are so silly, so arbitrary, that they must be triggering something deeper inside of us.
Why else would be there such a reaction? You can see this even more clearly when someone goes completely nuts over something really small, aka ROAD RAGE.

Most times it triggers our shame. When someone honks at me I react immediately, as if I need to defend myself, put the blame immediately back on the person honking at me. This helps me avoid feeling like I'm wrong or bad, because I get to make the other person wrong.

That little honk, a suggestion that I'm doing something wrong, immediately triggers the shame I have about all the things I think I'm doing wrong, have done wrong, or should have done better in my life. It turns a harmless honk of a horn into a need to fiercely defend myself; defend myself from the feeling of inadequacy. You see, it's easier to react and make the other person wrong, than to feel the feelings of inadequacy and shame.

It's the same thing that goes on in close relationships all the time, especially in romantic relationships. My wife might say something like: "The dishwasher isn't cleaning the dishes all the way," or "So and so has nice furniture." For her, this is simply an observation of something that is true, for me, it brings up all the ways in which I'm failing as a man, how I'm inadequate or how I should be doing a better job.

This cycle is everywhere with everyone and is mostly an automatic reaction, especially for men, even more so for men who have absent or distant fathers. I think a Man's biggest challenge is overcoming the fears of inadequacy that drive every aspect of their life, rather than living their life powerfully and on purpose. This is also one of the biggest things that takes away the freedom most men desperately seek. 

The ability to act in service of our deepest intentions is true freedom, most of us, however spend our lives carefully avoiding missteps and managing ourselves so as to avoid any potential failure. It's a prison created by our own fears.

The thing you need to know is:
a.) The reactions are just thoughts in your head, as meaningless as a fart in the wind.
b.) The story about how you are inadequate or unworthy if you fail is simply not true.

Practice noticing the reaction in your head. This will give you the opportunity to choose something other than avoiding shame.

This will give you the opportunity to practice true freedom.

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