I have a new trick I’ve been using to help myself through hard or uncomfortable experiences. I discovered it in a traffic jam, in a cloud of rage and rush and nerves, when a helpful thought happened to pop into my head, like a lucky little lightning bolt. I had been worrying myself sick about not already being where I was trying to go, stuck behind a row of cars as far ahead as I could see, and knowing that I was supposed to be home to my kids by now. I really, really need to be there, I thought. Right now! Bad things could happen if I don’t get there immediately. And all this traffic, all these cars, all these people are getting in my way!
That’s when the lucky thought came. I thought about all those people, and I realized that it was very, very likely that one of those people, in one of those cars, there in that traffic, was actually in a greater hurry than I was. There was probably someone who desperately needed to get where they were going, and awful things might happen because they were stuck. I thought about all the reasons someone might be in a hurry. An interview for their dream job. An oven left on. A relative dying, waiting for them to come say goodbye. Whoever it is, whatever the reason, I thought, they must be worried sick. They must be suffering so much right now.
I decided to try and send them a message, telepathically. I’m not usually much of a believer in telepathy, but I had limited tools to work with, sitting in my car. So I focused real hard (which I imagine to be an important component of telepathic communication), and I thought this message to them:
I’m so sorry you’re stuck in this traffic.
I know how worried you are.
I hope you get where you need to be soon.
I hope everything’s okay for you.
I’m here with you.
I don’t know if they got the message, whoever they were, but I do know that shifting my focus from me to them turned my whole experience around. I went from feeling trapped, out of control, burdened and stuck, to feeling empowered, helpful, purposeful, and like I was right were I needed to be. I can’t explain why it worked like this, but I’m telling you, it did. It felt like medicine or something. Somehow, that adjustment in how I was thinking had an effect that was soothing and energizing and liberating.
I’ve since tried this with other hard or uncomfortable experiences, and it consistently works well for me. I strongly recommend trying it yourself. Worried about money? Imagine someone who’s in an even tougher financial spot than you are, and spend the energy you use to worry about your own money instead on hoping that other person gets everything they need. Have a headache? Imagine someone who’s in even more physical pain than you are, and focus on hoping they can be comfortable soon. Fighting with a relative? Imagine someone with an even more strained relationship with their relative, and wish them peace, space, validation, resolution. Basically, whatever you need, wish it for someone else who needs it more.
This is not just remembering that there are other people worse off than you. This is seeing yourself in someone you don’t even know, and actively loving that person.
Because you’re not alone in your suffering. You’re not the only one who feels how you feel, and in all probability, there’s someone else who is going through whatever it is, having an even harder time with it. You’re probably not the person who, even in that way, is the very worst off.
And if you are – if you’re really pretty sure that you’re in the worst position, the worst traffic, the worst heat, the worst poverty, the worst pain, out of everyone in the whole world – just think of me. Know that that I’m out there somewhere, or someone else like me is out there somewhere, sending you support, trying to will things better for you.