As some of you know, I now have a step-dog. He’s a 9-year-old Rottweiler who’s actually very sweet, but who guards the backyard as if its his sole purpose in life (maybe it is?). Since we have a short fence in the back that parallels a greenway, there is no shortage of things for him to come unglued about. That mailman across the street and two houses down? Yeah, we’re on to you and your sinister plot to harm to everyone in our household—thankfully Loki the Rottweiler is there to make sure you stay away (or pee your pants…or both).
He is an idiot. He has never learned what constitutes a real problem and what doesn’t.
He has issues. A part of him enjoys getting riled up.
And then, it occurred to me…people are like this too. Okay, more precisely, I’m like this. After 30 years on this planet, I still get upset about things that aren’t worth getting so upset about. I bet I can’t remember even 1% of the things that happened last year that made my blood boil or ruined otherwise good days. I’m sure they seemed like really big deals at the time, but they probably weren’t worth the energy I wasted on them. They were, in essence, my own “mailman moments.”
So why do I do it? Well, there’s personality and habits and all that. Those are obvious. Less obvious is that I also get a payoff, just like Loki, who enjoys getting worked up into a lather. (Even we humans don’t do anything unless there’s some sort of payoff for us.) So what’s the benefit for me in getting upset? For one, I feel a bit self-righteous. Say I let someone in on the road while I’m driving and they (gasp!) don’t wave to thank me…
First, I’m mad because that person is rude and ungrateful…and I would never act so discourteous (read: I’m better than them). Second, I then go home upset and complain about this injustice, and someone is probably going to join in and affirm that I was wronged. They might even say or do nice things to help me feel better (read: I get positive reinforcement from others).
Obviously, this is a somewhat silly example, but can you see how it would be true in a lot of scenarios? I’ve come to realize, though, that the payoff isn’t worth it. I’m working on letting things go, and though I’m not great at it yet, I can clearly see how much happier I am when I make the effort to distinguish what’s really a problem and what’s not. I do have some choice in what upsets my apple cart.
Yay me for acting smarter than my dog…even if it did take a few decades. Better late than never, right?