This morning, I was trying to get out of the house to get to the office running a little behind, thinking I’ve got just enough time. Then I open the fridge to see what’s for lunch (to pack with me) and I knock over a container full of beans. Sure enough it falls out of the fridge, top comes off and beans and liquid spill all over. Gets the fridge, all over the floor, my shoes, and splatters on my pants. And I haven’t eaten yet.
Quite the moment staring at the mess all over everything. And I managed, somehow to smile and get interested in not getting upset. A little switch throws once you begin to feel excited or playful about not getting upset. A whole nother set of emotional responses comes to the fore once you see not reacting as the goal.
So I told myself there was plenty of time to do this, relaxed and tried to be efficient, cleaned it up and had some cereal. I could have so easily gone into stress response, maybe some negativity, all the rest.
But once you head that off, there really are other possibilities that are just as real and viable as handing the emotional controls over to the catastrophe police. We have any number of emotional systems that are poised to spring into action, each with their own set of complaints, lamentations and stories about it all. But knowing that there are also other ones that are just as ready to come on board and remain light, expectant and focused, reminds us that emotional responses have many forks in the road. Way easier to manage before the fork than after. This one today was a success story.
Concepts like radical acceptance or equanimity help us to manage these types of situations. And Minor Catastrophes are great proving grounds for developing these skills. I like to think of them as responses.
Responses are tendencies we have to respond in certain ways to situations – in this case challenging ones. Once you use skills or tools to manage and direct a response – you increase the likelihood and decrease the difficulty level of having that same response next time. And once you have enjoyed the pleasures of developing a positive response to a smaller challenging or painful situation, you have taken a step towards doing the same in a larger one. Taking control of the emotional apparatus, recognizing the forks in the road and recognizing you have input into them is a freeing thing. Bon Appetite!