When Other People Stress You Out (Stress Relief, Part 1)
Life is like walking through a giant shopping mall. Every store is filled with life experiences. And the entire mall is filled with other people. All of them are finding their life experiences too, and most of them are so wrapped up in them, they think they are the only real experiences in the place. They shout at you as you pass, trying to get you to buy into their personal life experiences. They do this because if you do, it validates them.
One is shouting that the planet is dying, and that we have to take action now to save it. That’s his personal experience, it’s what he sees when he looks out from his perspective. He wants you to join him there, because he feels the more who believe in his experience, the more likely he’ll be able to change it. (Sidebar: He’s wrong. The more people who believe in it, the more real it will become. But that’s another blog post.)
Every person who loves his religion is yelling at you as you stroll through the mall of life, “Join me! I’ve found the right path! This is The One True Way. Come and buy it and you’ll be happy like I am.” Because if you believe it too, it must be true.
Every person with a disease wants you to join the fight against it. Every person with a cause wants you to help them support it. Every person who believes anything about anything, wants you to believe it too. That’s a lot of people with a lot of beliefs about a lot of subjects, all shouting at you at once.
And there’s more. There are little people running around inside your head also shouting at you. They are made out of moments you’ve already lived, things you’ve observed. They’ve made themselves into truths in your mind. You believe them without even knowing you do. You bought them by believing them.
So here’s the thing. Just like when you’re in a real shopping mall, where there are countless shops full of countless things to buy, you aren’t obligated to buy all of them. Not even the ones in your own shop inside your head. And you certainly aren’t obligated to buy the items you find appalling, horrifying, frightening, disgusting, distasteful, ugly, or otherwise unappealing.
You don’t have to walk into the store where the pear shaped middle-aged women are all shouting, “You put on weight when you age! Your metabolism slows down. Your joints get weaker. You start to sag! Come on in here and buy into this with us so we don’t feel so badly that we did!”
You don’t have to walk in there. You can hear it, you can notice it, and you can keep right on walking, looking for the shop that has the gorgeous knockouts in it who are shouting, “You’re as young as you feel! Fitness doesn’t have to stop at 45! Aging is mental, not physical! Get in here with us so we can reaffirm these beliefs with one more living example!”
You can instead, wait until you pass the shop that says, “Good health is your natural state of being! All disease is just that healthy energy being blocked, and the only one who can block it is YOU. And guess what? Being happy is the block-buster. It’s that simple.”
Now that’s a shop I want to visit. And I want to buy what they’re selling there. How do I do that? What is the currency I use to pay for my purchases in this shopping mall of life experiences? It’s my attention. I “PAY” attention just like I pay with money or its plastic equivalent for a new pair of jeans at Aeropostale or a new kind of lotion at Bath & Body.
All that others say or do, even if they’re saying it or doing it to you (or about you,) is their experience. You may hear it shouted at you as you stroll through your day, but it cannot belong to you unless you stop and go into that store, and put your money on the counter by putting your attention on the experience. Once you do that, you own it. That experience that was someone else’s, now is yours. You will carry it around with you until you take your attention off of it, forgetting all about it like you sometimes forget a shopping bag in the mall restroom.
As you walk through the shopping mall of life, know that your supply of cash (attention) is pretty much limitless. You can buy whatever you want. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? You can buy whatever you want.
So hunt for the experiences you dream of, and buy only those. When you hear the hawkers shouting at you about things you’d rather not experience, walk past them very quickly, looking the other way. (Like you do with those people in the mall doing surveys. Or the ones who just want a minute of your time to show you what they can do for your nails. Don’t stop for them. I did once. Cost me three hundred bucks.)
Now, take this silly mall analogy and apply it to whatever is bothering you in your life. What experience are you buying into? Is it the one being shouted at you inside your head? “There’s too much to do! I’ll never get it all done! Why do they expect so much from me? Why can’t I get any help around here? How am I supposed to handle this?”
You can buy into that if you want. Or you can make a deliberate choice to keep walking through that mall in your mind until you come upon some laid back easy-going voice in your head that says, “Hey, take it easy. It’ll get done, or it won’t get done. The world won’t end either way. I’ll do what I can, but I know that my purpose in life is to ENJOY it. So that’s what my top priority is. Having fun.”
We’re going to talk more about stress and ways to get your attention OFF it, in the coming days, but I thought this little mall story might give some of us a jump start on things.