How to Get Out of Your Own Head

Life loves to test us with different challenges, doesn’t it?  It happens every day. Sometimes we roll with it and don’t even notice, and other times it really throws us for a loop.

Recently I got caught up in one of life’s little tests.  A few weeks ago, I was at a stop sign turning left.  The driver behind me felt entitled to ram past me because he was turning right.  There was not room, so he deliberately sideswiped the right rear of my car.  Then, as he passed, he had the audacity to give me the stink-eye, as if I had done something wrong.  Then he drove off!  Yup.  I was involved in a hit and run “accident.”  Luckily, the kind woman behind me helped out and offered to be a witness.  Ultimately, the guy denied his crime, and since I was unable to identify him, they would not ticket him.  They said there was not enough evidence of damage on his car.  It didn’t matter that I had his white Mercedes paint all over my car.  It didn’t matter that I had an impartial witness.  It didn’t matter that it all hinged on my ability to identify a man in a photo line up whom I briefly saw in another car under extreme shock two weeks earlier.

What mattered was that he lied, and since I could not identify his face, the criminal won.

This all reached its conclusion yesterday.  I was annoyed and pissed.  I lost faith in the justice system.  Essentially, the criminal had more protection than the victim.  It didn’t, and frankly still doesn’t, seem fair.  Even though my pain and consequences were negligible, I still wanted justice.  I wanted this jerk to be held accountable for his shady actions.

At that point, I had to decide how to move forward.  I rationalized all the reasons I should let it go, sympathizing with people who have suffered far greater injustices and consequences in their lives.  Injustices happen all the time, so I told myself that I was not special.  My logic didn’t give me instantaneous relief, so instead I contemplated revenge.  Maybe I should put a hex on him, I thought; or maybe find out his name to post it here for the world to see the truth. Surely that would make me feel better.

In the end I decided against revenge.  I decided so because I would rather be in control of my life instead of having it control me.  I’d rather be happy instead of right.  I’d rather let it go and feel free.

But that’s hard.  I was still pissed.

I shared this story with a friend last night hoping for some perspective.  While she agreed and empathized with me, I could see how her detachment allowed her to have a healthy perspective.  It was easy for her to see how little any of it mattered, even if justice seemed so important to me.  It was easy for her to see that there was no benefit to holding on to it. It was easy for her to see that after tonight this was not going to affect my life unless I allowed it to. It was easy for her to suggest I simply let it go.  Really, why waste the energy?  True.

This felt like the key, but I still resisted letting it all go.

As I continued navigating through this challenge, today the light bulb went off.  I connected my friend’s advice with a conversation I recently had with a client.  My client was really angry at herself for some things she did over the past few weeks that sabotaged her goals.  I asked her,

What would you say to your friend if she did what you did?  How would you treat her?

When no other reasoning worked, that questioning alone changed everything for her.  So I decided to try it for myself.  I pretended I was my friend.  I listened to myself tell the story to me as if I were in no way involved.  Immediately I felt myself becoming  more detached from the problem, almost laughing, and my frustration and anger vanished.  I was truly able to see how unimportant my plight was, and I let it go.

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond.  The magic is in the power of choice.

The next time your patient unjustifiably blames you for “ruining” their tooth, you feel like your assistant or boss has let you down once again, or maybe you let someone else down; try it.  Tell the story to yourself as if you are hearing it from your friend.  Imagine how you would respond and what you would tell your friend.  Then say it to yourself.  Take the charge away by actually being the friend to yourself.  You may find you’ll be able to see the situation more objectively and have the power choose how you want to respond.

What is one thing you are holding on to simply because you feel like it?  How would it look if you could just move on?


15 thoughts on “How to Get Out of Your Own Head

  1. This post has absolutely struck a chord with me. I know that feeling of wanting to get back at someone who has hurt your feelings in some way or caused you an untold amount of damage. I’m still trying to move on from two people’s wicked actions of last year – one of whom I trusted very much. I’m pleased to say that I’m in a better place now than I was last year but the letting go is hard. But I know I’ll get there and even though I still sometimes fantasise about revenge, I won’t go there as I’ll let karma deal with that!

    1. I guess it’s part of the human experience, isn’t it? One of the types of injustices I was referring to was an example like yours. You were betrayed by people you had relationships with and you trusted. That is much more personal and has more charge. That would take anyone a while to let go. When we don’t get closure on these events, it’s hard to move on. Time is the ultimate healer for many challenges, but I think about how much suffering we expose ourselves to that may not always be necessary. It’s so cliche, but it’s also so true that we are the ones that suffer the most when we hold on to things. I’m glad to see you have made some progress for yourself in moving forward and that you are in a better place. I’m sure you will get there too.

      And I love the idea of karma! It helps me too. 😉 I also believe that it’s okay to fantasize about revenge as a way to move through our emotions. We are taught we shouldn’t have negative thoughts ever, but I pushing those real thoughts away and pretending they aren’t real actually makes them stronger.

  2. So sorry you went through all this. I would have reacted in the same manner, as it drives me crazy when dishonest people get away with things — especially because I strive to do just the opposite. It’s hard to let go of things like this, but it seems like you found a good way.

    Reminds me of a somewhat similar situation I went through. I’m part of a walking group, where we walk 3 – 6 miles a few times a week. Recently on one of our trips, as we were crossing a fairly busy intersection — in the crosswalk on a walk signal, during daylight where we were fully visible — someone turning a corner almost ran into us. He laid on the horn and screamed at us, yelling that we were not supposed to be crossing at that time because the signal was blinking. He then squealed his tires and sped off. I had to think to myself, “HE’s the one who almost hit us, and he’s mad at US??” While we were in the crosswalk, the signal had changed to flashing yellow, and indicated we still had 25 seconds to cross.

    We clearly had had the right of way. I even checked the posted sign on the signal when we reached the other side to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. (Pedestrians should enter the intersection on the walk signal (which we did), and it will eventually switch to flashing yellow to indicate how much time remains to reach the other side safely. Confirmation that we had been in the right.)

    I was so annoyed that the driver didn’t understand the rules of the road, and was so quick to blame us (and almost hit us), I felt like somehow going after him and reprimanding him — but of course that was impossible. I realize that all drivers make mistakes, and if he had stopped and apologized for simply not seeing us, I would have felt better. But this was clearly not the case. I stewed about it for awhile, but when I realized there was absolutely nothing at all I could do, I left it up to the “universe”… that someday, somehow, he will understand that it had been his fault, and he’d feel bad about it. I am over it now, and my feeling of anger was replaced by me wanting him to realize he did not understand how a crosswalk signal works, so that he will be more careful in the future, and lessen the chance of him killing somebody.

    If I had known to do what you suggest in your post, I bet I could have gotten past it a lot sooner.

    One other thing regarding your post. If I actually had told the story to myself about the desire to change careers, as if a friend were telling me, I would have seen things in a different light, and made the necessary changes much much sooner!!

    1. Eric, thanks. That is part of it for sure. I know I never would do this to someone else. Ever. Had he stopped and apologized, I probably would have gotten his insurance info just in case, but maybe would have never bothered with it because the damage was so minor. It’s about principle and about treating others with kindness.

      Your traffic incident is the perfect similar situation. No harm, no foul– but NOT RIGHT!! And, as you say, who knows what a person with this lack of ethics might do to harm to someone else. I had to settle on the Universe and karma taking care of this man also. It was part of my rationalization. It doesn’t quite satisfy like real, tangible consequences, but it has to do when we can’t get a resolution. I think we all waste some time on these types of things, but for me that is the key– the sooner, the better. I”ll be interested to know if you ever have the chance to try it in the future, how that goes for you.

      Such an interesting process to do with a career change… will have to see how that pans out for people. I wonder how clearly you would have been able to see while still knee deep in everything? Maybe you have so much more clarity now, that it makes so much sense. Interesting… I wonder how much separation we need to really think clearly about it, and could this approach give the objectivity sooner?

  3. Oh blimey, it’s hard when the justice system lets you down. Over here you wouldn’t have to identify him in a line up, having his numberplate and a witness would have been enough- it would have been up to him to prove he wasn’t driving his car, and they would have taken paint scrapings from yours and his cars (I know – it happened to me when I hit someone! 🤪). My other half really struggles with injustice when it happens, and I have to just let him work it through, but it takes him a long time. I learned a long time ago that life is not always fair, or just, but I always console myself with the thought of karma, that guy that hit your car is in for a bad time along the line!

    1. Fraggs, isn’t that crazy? I still can’t fathom how our system is designed to protect the bad guys over the good guys. Grr!! I’m glad at least they have a reasonable standard there. I’d say I’m the “Phil” in my relationship. My husband gets over things more quickly than I do, and he knows (sometimes) to give me time!. It’s a wise move on your part. 😉 I think you’re lucky to have learned that life isn’t always fair. It helps to move on faster when you know that. That karma thing is one of the things I use… it helps… a little. I also sent him all of my bad juju. Was proud this one only took me 24 hours….

  4. Sometimes it difficult to let go of feelings that you have been ‘wronged’ in some way. Though the person who suffers more in the end is you for not letting go. It’s a double whammy.
    I wish I could ‘move on’ with greater ease than I do. I think it a personality trait of caring people who do their best by everybody and then get treated by someone or something in a way you would never do and then getting overly annoyed by the injustice of it all!
    I like your way of dealing with it though. Retelling the story to yourself which will help you detach from the issue. I’ve done this a few times and realised when I needed to drop an issue. (For my own sake!)

    1. Mark, absolutely– it get us nowhere and only makes US suffer! It does nothing at all to punish the other person. I tend to hold on for too long, and so I was impressed that this really only took one day. 😉 I have been finding that we (dental types) have a perspective in which we really value taking care of other people (seems obvious, right?) For me, at least, I am starting to realize that my frustration often stems from my expectation that because I value doing what’s right for other people, they should do the same for me. However, not everyone values this, so when they let me down or they don’t do the right thing, it sets me up for frustration.

      That’s so cool to hear that you have used this technique in the past. It really works!

  5. I’m not sure I would’ve gotten over this without posting his name and license plate number. Life is interesting these days and it seems criminals have more rights than victims, but that’s another post 😃

    1. Ingrid… you are making me want to edit my post to include his personal information!! LOL So your comment made me go look him up, and what is so interesting is that there were 3 guys that looked alike in the line up and 2 others guys that looked alike. The guy who did it was 1 of the 2. I actually picked the wrong one of the 2, so I was actually pretty close!!! I guess now I’m laughing about it. And I guess I’m not really over it or as noble as I want to be because… er… this is him!

      1. Small world isn’t it? Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but even in the photo he comes off looking like an entitled jerk 😉 Remember – karma’s a bitch! Keep smiling 😁

        1. Agree with everything you said… how he looks and karma! Actually, it’s all working out. Oddly enough, several of our contacts know him, and so I’m sure the truth is making the rounds. Now I think the whole thing is funny.

    2. OMG, this is the funniest thing, Ingrid. So obviously you sparked me to look into it, and I sent the information to my husband. He is out of town, and the guy he happens to be with right now who doesn’t even live in Colorado knows him!! Life is funny… I’m LOL’ing right now.

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