Learning to manage our emotions and live happily as human beings is not something that comes naturally to most of us.
It’s something we need to learn—like taking driving lessons.
It’s taken me a lifetime to gain the skills needed to drive my “emotional car” without crashing (well, most of the time…).
When I was young and my emotional car was pretty small, when I had a tantrum or lost control of my emotions in other ways, the big people around kept me on track and helped me avoid harming myself or anyone else. It was like driving a dodgem: happily zooming around, sometimes having fun or crying if I got into a big smash but being kept on track by people I trusted.
When I got too big for the fairground and went out onto the road of life, I discovered that other drivers were speeding past, sometimes cutting in front of me, and generally acting in ways I wasn’t used to. Some seemed to know instinctively where the brakes were and how to use the steering wheel. Others were on the wrong side of the road half the time and doing all kinds of dangerous maneuvers.
No one offered me any emotional driving lessons, so I had to figure out by trial and error where the controls were and how to use them. It was a risky way to learn, and the fact that I didn’t get into a serious emotional crash was due more to good luck than good driving.
Over time, my emotional engine has kept growing, and although I’m still working out the best ways to manage it, I thought I’d share the most helpful emotional driving tips I’ve learned so far:
1. Never drive when you’re drunk—it’s dangerous and you don’t know where you’ll end up.
2. Always expect the unexpected; you can’t change how other people act, but you can avoid crashing into them.
3. Drive defensively so that if others do something stupid or hurtful you can take evasive action in time.
4. A seat belt of self-confidence makes you less vulnerable if someone smashes into you.
5. Changing lanes when you’re going fast can cause you to lose control; slow down and look around before deciding which direction you want to go.
6. The steering wheel is there so you can control where you’re going. And remember, you don’t have to follow anyone else.
7. Choose your destination in advance so you can figure out the best route to get there.
8. Rushing is stressful; take time to reflect on where you’re going and why.
9. Enjoy the scenery but keep your eyes on the road ahead.
10. If others have crashed, help when and where you can, but otherwise, drive on by.