Self-defenses and self-deprecation

Living in an urban area can make people very combative. Constantly confronted by random people, noises, distractions, unpleasant sounds and smells; we can find it difficult to feel serene, calm or receptive in an environment like this. And when we feel on the defensive or overwhelmed, manners take a back seat or get thrown out entirely. Recently I experienced two incidents where I handled seemingly inconvenient situations with positive behaviors. Each one brought a completely different result. I’d like to share them here.

Situation 1

I had just spent 1-1/2 hours working out at the gym and then completed a huge grocery shopping trip, so needless to say I was feeling awesome! I had loaded the groceries into my Jeep, and proceeded to start the car.  Looking around before I backed out of my spot, I noticed a gentleman in a big pick-up backing out to my left . So I waited. The truck was so large, it couldn’t get out easily, and there was a man loading things slowly into his hatchback that happened to be right in the path of the truck, causing him to stop just 6 or 8 inches from being clear enough to drive away. We both waited for 5 minutes while the man continued to load his groceries, meanwhile I noticed that if I backed straight out of my spot I could exit the lot through the empty parking space the truck had made, and free us both from our predicament. So, I rolled down my window, smiled at the man and gestured  in a way that I thought was suggesting I move my vehicle. Not a moment passed and the man opened his door and growled–yelled–“Don’t you see that this asshole is holding me up! $%@*#%!” and he tore out of the lot nearly tearing off my bumper in the process. I was horrified! And the poor man with the hatchback was baffled as well. I apologized to the man, explaining what had happened, and then moved on with my day, allthewhile pondering the truck-man’s behavior.

Situation 2

I live on a very busy 2 lane street with cars on either side.Driving down this street is like playing chicken with pedestrians and busses and other cars  for a mile!  Not a few days after “Situation 1” I was on my way to run a few errands, heading hurriedly down my street. As I was stopped at a red light, these 2 young women began to very slowly cross the street. The light immediately turned green right as the women mindlessly paused in the middle of the street to gawk at something-or-other. I knew I would miss my light and be held up, but I didn’t want to be rude either. So, I tapped my horn lightly and smiled and waved at the women when they looked at me. They were surprised but smiled, waved (perhaps they thought they knew me), and moved on across the street so I could pass through the intersection. Problem free!

These two situations have many things in common; I tried to be positively proactive to alleviate a typically frustrating situation that involved complete strangers in a communal public space. In one case I was very successful, and in the other I was met with instant aggression and anger.  This is a very common experience for someone who tries to act constructively instead of react emotionally. So when this happens to you remember first to have some compassion for the cranky guy/gal that is muddling up your niceness. And the second thing to do? Move on and stay positive. 

It is easy for people to build and build their frustrations and hostility to the point where any trigger can set them off. And remember, it’s cathartic to give in to those feelings. While living in an urban area can be extra stressful, we must all work extra hard to avoid letting our self-defenses become self-deprecating behaviors. These behaviors will continuously eliminate the possibility of good and pleasant interactions happening in our lives. So not only will we feel regret for our emotional blow-outs, but we will then be systematically denied rewarding interactions. Better to be positive as best and often as you can, wouldn’t you say? It’s hard work to stay positive with the barrage of negativity that hits us, but it’s worth it! Trust me!