“Hey! You there! Don’t you see my halo? So move #$**!@! over!

“Hey! You there! Don’t you see my halo? So move over!”

“Paying Attention to What You Are Paying Attention To” Series

What you pay attention to changes the experiences the world for other people. Maybe not the president or even the mayor, but what you pay attention to matters a lot to the people around you.. And your dogs.

Why? Because you ‘act out’ (that’s what we call it in the hospital) when you are plugged into unpleasant features of life and you seem to be unable to unplug your brain.  

Let start with an easy one, paying attention to other drivers. Let’s take what happens when you are driving in the middle lane and your attention is drawn to another driver who zooms up to tailgate, then squeezes into the lane on your right and then zips back into your lane almost taking your front bumper with it.

Which statement most clearly describes your thoughts about the driver who you are now ‘paying attention to)? (If your family is particularly unlucky, which are the words you are most likely to say?)

That driver is an idiot. Too bad stupid doesn’t show!

That driver is selfish. One more example of how people today don’t care about anyone but themselves!

That driver is an ego maniac. He thinks the rules don’t apply to him!

Look at that guy. He could have killed us! (This is my personal favorite. I’m known to claim a shoe left out of place, a punctured tire, or mayonnaise on the counter overnight–could have killed us!)

When it comes to paying attention to what we pay attention to while driving, we behave as if we believe the delusion that the stranger in the other car knows us personally and does not respect us enough to obey the rules.

How would your life and the lives of those you love be different if you gave up talking to and evaluating other drivers? Forever? Or maybe just on two days a week? Too much? I agree. Just pick one road trip and give this idea a shot.

This is a tough challenge. When another driver goes outside the lines, we experience an adrenaline blip automatically since the move is unexpected. And we live in an other-directed society, which means we are constantly monitoring how others see us and how others treat us. Thus, that adrenaline is easily converted into battle cries.

**Takeaway: When we are the driver, what we do and say sets the mood for the car. It is ridiculous to claim that others should not be upset because, after all, we’re not mad at them. We’re mad at the other guy. And can’t they see that we are right and the other driver is wrong? And that is important in life to point out such things? What we pay attention to and how we react while driving does affect those around us.

Want to make a real change that others will notice? The next time another driver misbehaves, say the following: Oops. Oh well, that guy must be in a bigger hurry than I am.”

I know. Could be the occupants of your car will faint or insist your body has been inhabited by aliens. Still, give it a try. If only now and then. In case you’re thinking this post sounds like a sermon, hang on to that thought through the next paragraph.

Last Sunday after services I climbed in my car which, as is my habit, I had parked on a residential side street pointed in the opposite direction from my way home. Headed back to the house, I cranked the wheel to make my familiar U-turn and that’s when, halfway through the turn and in the middle of the street, a young father with a full car seat and another child holding his hand stepped into the street and opened the back door of his car. I stopped to give them space without concern. I watched. So lovely a scene, and I was so lovely, and considerate a person. I was practically high on how my saintliness had carried right out into the sunshine. If only other people could know this sense of holiness, I’m thinking,  the world would be a better place. So lovely.

At that moment, a man in a red truck turned onto the street from the corner to my left which meant I was blocking his way. The rude man did not perceive my obvious saintliness with the admiration I deserved. Instead of admiring my halo, he honked his horn.

I shot him the bird. Said a couple of things in case he did not understand my gesture. Oh yeah, I set a wonderful example for the children. I was awesome.  




I'm a psychologist who goes to way too many movies, for the same reason I chose this profession. I love stories. I use movies and novels working with people in my office and during speaking engagements. "You should write some of this down," I kept being told. So, this is it, folks.

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