The third driver exhibits balance. She can focus well on driving and perform the
necessary maneuvers, but she is not consumed by the task. Nor is she distracted by other aspects of her life. It appears that events that occurred before she left home as well as the situation she is likely to find at her destination cause her little concern. She is the picture of balance and peace. This is not to say that everything in her life is balanced and peaceful. Far from it. In fact, she is very worried that her younger brother might be into drugs. She knows he has an appointment with his boss today and is in danger of losing his job. Silently she offers a brief prayer that he will be given another chance if that is in his best interest. If his getting fired is the wake-up call he needs, she hopes that he will learn from it. She is also aware that her mother-in-law has a doctor appointment today. When she notices herself feeling tense because the older woman rejected her offer of help, she lets go of that thought. Instead she reaffirms that she cannot control another’s behavior. After that, she sends an inner message of peace to her mother-in-law and hopes that the day goes well for her. While she is about it, she sends love and peace to her husband who was angry with her this morning because she had not insisted on accompanying his mother to the doctor. She makes a mental note to give him a back rub after dinner. Just then she pulls into the parking lot of her company and prepares for a meeting with the auditor who informed her that one of her employees may be embezzling. “Well,” she thinks, “this is a challenge I’ve never had to face before. I’m sure to learn a lot.”
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Creating emotional distance
If we examine the reactions of the three people described above, we might say that the first two are very close, in an emotional sense, to their situations while the third person has the ability to allow some space between her and her life. This space can be mental or emotional or even physical. For example, she allows herself to feel that there is hope for her brother whether or not he loses his job. She distances herself from the situation enough that either outcome can be seen as a good one. Her brother, on the other hand, feels that his life will be ruined if he is fired. She also acknowledges her motherin-law’s right to refuse help. Although our third driver does not actually think her mother-in-law can cope well with the doctor visit, she realizes that she cannot force herself on the older woman. She is aware that her husband is investigating ways to assume more stewardship for his mother through legal processes, but, until this is in place, the older woman is free to make her own decisions. She can also anticipate that the situations of both her brother and mother-in-law are apt to evoke some very unpleasant feelings in all the family members, including herself. By rehearsing and preparing for her own reactions, she hopes to be calmer when the new developments emerge. These types of thoughts give her perspective, one of the
ways she gives herself space and more freedom to choose her responses.
How did this woman learn to stay relaxed despite events in her life? Chances are she did it for the same reasons you are interested in doing it. She reached a point where her stressful reactions to life began to cause her physical problems. Perhaps she suffered from migraine headaches, insomnia, or high blood pressure. Some people exhibit mental and emotional symptoms from stress. Perhaps she used to be irritable, anxious, or depressed a significant amount of the time. Her ability to enjoy life became tainted with worry and anxiety regarding the future, and she decided to do something about it.
Regardless of what prompted her to change, we might observe that she has succeeded in mastering herself.