YOUR MIND IS A meaning-making machine.
Without even trying, you know what things mean, at
least most of the time. When someone treats you rudely, your
mind interprets that. It makes some meaning out of it. And its
completely automatic. That is, you dont stop and think
about it. You dont try to make an interpretation.
It happens without any effort on your part.
The meanings you make affect the way you
feel and determine how you interact with people and circumstances.
The interpretations you make about the events in your life have
a significant influence on the amount of stress you experience
in your day.
For example, lets say someone cuts
you off on the freeway. And lets further postulate, just
for fun, that your automatic interpretation is What a jerk.
The interpretation would probably make you upset, at least a
little bit. But realize that it doesnt feel like youre
making the interpretation What a jerk. The
way it feels to you is that your assessment of the person is
obvious, and anyone in their right mind would make the same assessment
in the same circumstances. But believe it or not, your interpretation
was your own doing, and it wasnt the only possible interpretation
you could have made.
The important thing about this is that
your interpretations change the way you feel, and those feelings
change the way you interact with the world.
The good news is: Youre not stuck
with the interpretations your mind makes automatically. You can
come up with new ones. You wouldnt marry the first person
you met after puberty, would you? You wouldnt take a job
at the first place you saw a Help Wanted sign, would
you? Well, you dont have to use the first interpretation
that pops into your head, either.
In the example above, the possible ways
to interpret someone cutting you off are virtually unlimited.
How about this one: The person had unexpected car trouble and
now is running terribly late to an important appointment. If
the driver is a woman, maybe shes in labor and needs to
get to a hospital now. If its a man, maybe he was
called at work and told his wife is in labor. Maybe his brakes
went out. Maybe hes having heart trouble.
None of those interpretations are better
than any others in an absolute way. But which one leaves you
able to go on about your day feeling fine? Or, if its a
situation that keeps repeating itself and requires action, which
interpretation will make you most effective at dealing with that
Challenge yourself. Dont settle for
the first interpretation that comes to mind. Say to yourself,
Okay, it might mean that...what else could it mean? Whats
another way to interpret this? You will feel better, treat
people better, and handle situations better. Do you know what
this could mean to you? You tell me.
Come up with alternative ways
of interpreting an event.