Next time you’re feeling stressed out about something—anything at all—just stop for a minute and think. Don’t think about how to solve the problem, who to blame, or how much of a victim you are. Instead, think about the thoughts and feelings that are triggering your suffering. Why are you feeling angry or frustrated? What’s at the root of all your stress?
Suppose you’re dropping your son off at school and right as you’re pulling up the school driveway he decides he doesn’t want to go to class so he spills his grape juice all over himself, you and your cloth interior, causing you to end up half an hour late for work, in addition to having a big purple blotch on your shirt that curiously resembles a bloodstained Rorschach.
Your child, the traffic, whatever it is—these are not causing your real problems. What’s really causing you to get stressed out and miserable is that you’re getting caught up in the story: if I’m stuck in traffic I’ll end up being late and my boss will think I don’t care about my work and then with the upcoming layoffs they’ll end up cutting me loose, and if I lose my job I’ll lose my house—on and on the story spews forth from our imaginative mind. We get attached to our story and identify with it so closely that we can’t distinguish between our thoughts surrounding the event and the event itself.
We’re conditioned by society to think that we have so much control over our life and to point fingers when things don’t turn out as we hoped. But the exact opposite is true. We cannot control other people (or the outcome of our actions) and everyone has to take ownership over their own response to events. It’s no wonder we get so frazzled by stress. We keep trying to push buttons that don’t work. And we have a whole keyboard of buttons that we’re obsessed with pushing.
Though we are indeed an actor in our story, we are also the director of our story since everything that plays through our mind is based on our perception of it.
Whether it’s our life story or our many day-to-day mini-dramas, rather than reacting negatively or rather than even trying to find the silver lining in every situation, we can take a shortcut to solving any problematic situation. That shortcut is to laugh.
We can laugh at anything that happens to us because we know that it is just the story that we’re laughing at. We’re not laughing at the other actors involved in the event or the event itself. It is just the script we’ve written in our minds that is the joke. It’s a joke simply because our mind created it so we can just as easily destroy it. This we have control over.
After realizing this we then have to remember it. And that’s the tricky part. Our ego wants to keep us dependent on it so it weaves these elaborate stories that we then identify with so closely. As we identify with our story we build our attachment to it which further bolsters the ego and causes us to forget to remember to laugh. End result: the story gets perpetuated into one long, continuous stream with no intermissions and no chances to break free, causing our mind to get fully absorbed into its reality.
It’s a good thing we have a lot of opportunities to practice. Each and every time we find ourselves being caught in our story we can see it as an opportunity to laugh. So next time you’re feeling stressed, rather than just buying into the story, take a step back and realize that you are the author of this script. And when you think about just how silly that story is, it’s hard not to laugh.
What do you do when you’re feeling stressed? Do you find laughing helps?
image: Kid shouting through vintage megaphone via Shutterstock