I have always believed the old saying “Don’t worry about what people think of you. You’d be surprised by how little they think about you at all.” Much unnecessary stress is brought into our lives by failing to understand this little gem of a truth. We assign motives to people’s actions that have nothing at all to do with why they actually behave the way they do. People, by and large, are not out to “get” us.
I am a runner (recreationally speaking) and I live just off of a busy four-lane highway. I have a two mile loop that goes up the highway for a ways and then comes back to my street. I run on the side that faces the oncoming traffic. I like to see the potential squashing coming before it squashes me. Also, I run on the very edge of the road where a car would not even have to leave their lane to not commit vehicular assault upon my poorly-dressed person. Because of the monotony of the activity, I don’t have anything else to look at but my potential oncoming demise.
As I considered the oncoming traffic I realized that most cars would begin to veer towards me and then move over at about 200 feet away. “What a lousy bunch of bullies,” I always thought, until one day I remembered hearing that we tend to move towards what we focus on. Automatic programming was causing the partially asleep morning drivers to drift towards me without any ill-will on their part. When their brains finally engaged they’d give me a bit of room and even sometimes wave.
There are several lessons in this, but the one that has impacted me is that paranoia about the bad will of others is not justified. My own wounds and experiences give an interpretation to events that simply don’t reflect the truth. They are ghosts and shadows that I must meet “head on” if I am to be whole.