I’m still happily working my way through Derren Brown’s masterpiece, ‘Happy’ and I must say, I’m becoming increasingly happy the more that I read. One of the recurring themes that he comes back to is the idea that when something happens, it’s not the actual thing that causes us to feel something, positive or negative, but rather the story that we tell ourselves about this thing.
Say, for example, someone you know passes you on the street and completely blanks you. Your brain might create a number of reactions to this scenario. For example,
“How rude! What a *insert appropriate profanity!*”
This particular reaction might lead to anger. You might begin to remember all the times you’ve helped this person out; the kindness you’ve shown towards them; all the while becoming increasingly angry at this slight. Maybe you’ll find yourself arguing with them in your head, creating vivid hostile images that create strong sensations of anger within your body. Perhaps you’ll then alter your own behaviour. You might not reply to their emails or messages, or give cold, yes/no answers when you do see them, longing to punish them in some way for this affront.
Maybe this isn’t your reaction. More frequently for myself, I assume that I’ve done something wrong and that they must be upset me with me in some way. Again, the self-absorbed negative thought-loop begins. This time, I retrace my steps through every social interaction between myself and this ‘blanker’, attempting to pinpoint where exactly I’ve gone wrong. It’s a truly exhausting and miserable process.
Yet, this is something that I’ve personally done countless time. Countless! To see it written out here in plain English: well… it looks like the actions of a lunatic. Or at least someone prone to self-harm. So what’ the answer?
It’s incredibly simple – DROP THE STORY!
So someone you know passes you on the street and completely blanks you. The story needs be nothing more than ‘someone you know passes you on the street and completely blanks you.’ Nothing more needed.
After all, this is the only fact that we have here. We don’t know what’s going on in this persons’ eyesight, head or life at that moment. We have no idea if the person intentionally blanked us or was perhaps lost in thought and action. We certainly have no right to assume that seemingly out of nowhere, this person blanked us because of something we have said or done.
So again – drop the story and just accept what happens as it is, without the layers of drama and assumptions.
Once you’ve let go of this heavy burden, you’ll very likely feel a lot lighter.