Every day, I drive 56 km from our home to my daughter’s school in the city. It usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. On some days when road accidents or repairs obstruct the smooth flow of traffic, the lines of vehicles get longer and longer, and the crawl of traffic becomes unbearably slow or seemingly a standstill. Drivers and passengers get agitated and stressed because nobody likes to be late.
My 10-year-old is a classic case of work-yourself-up-to-a-frenzy type. At her school, latecomers have to report to the School Office and are assigned to school community tasks, e.g. cleaning the lunch table. Yesterday, we were 10 minutes late leaving the house and traffic buildup was evident 2 km into the journey. I could feel EJ’s tension build as she asked repeatedly, “Will I get to school on time?” and talked about how her classmates would tease her and her “punishment.” My usual assurances were not working on her and there was no other way to school except through the traffic mass.
“Hey Em, don’t you think this traffic jam is cute?” Huh?
“What do you think God sees when He looks down? He must be so amused that people queue in little boxes on wheels like ants in a line every morning …” Yep 🙂 that caught her imagination, and soon she was happily telling her versions of how human behavior might appear to other creatures. We arrived at school in time and she was chirpy.
Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte in The Resilience Factor show readers how to deal with thinking traps when faced with adversity, using the ABCDE technique:
- First, identify the Adversity or Antecedent event, and
- Our Beliefs about
- The likely unpleasant Consequences.
- Then, we change track – Dispute our Beliefs with evidence of experiences of positive outcomes, alternative ways of dealing with the event, or looking at the event from a different perspective.
- With practice, our Energy levels are boosted as we learn to cope with the tyrannical rampage of negativism in our minds and deal with our world more calmly.
Perhaps humor as an alternative perspective works faster than others. Laughter lifts us and sets into motion the powerful effects of positive emotions, as shown by the Barbara Fredrickson group.
Reivich, K, & Shatt?, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.