I got up this morning, put on my glasses, and went to the kitchen. Just like I do every morning.
I stumbled around, put water on to boil, ran my fingers through my hair, got out the cat food, looked down…
… and saw what looked like a black spider crumpled on the floor. Kind of squished, but not completely.
It was too early to think about anything but Coffee and Feeding the Cats. So I fed the cats while the water heated up.
I came back to the kitchen and, yes, it was definitely a spider. Mostly squished, but not completely.
Oh my GOD, was it in my hair? Did it fall out when I finger-combed my hair? Oh MY GOD, had it been on my pillow? Had I rolled over on it? Eeeeeeeew! OHMYGOD, was it in the clothes I took off the hook and put on when I got up? EEEEEEEEK!
Have I mentioned that I don’t like spiders?
At this point I could quite easily have dissolved into hysteria and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen, screaming.
Instead, I realized that none of that really mattered as long as it hadn’t bitten me, which it hadn’t. (Wait, what’s that itchy spot on my leg?)
So I got a kleenex, picked it up (Eeew, did it move?), didn’t see any red marks on its belly, and threw it in the trash. Eew. (Or should I say, “Threeeew it in the trash”?)
Once I had my coffee, I thought about how easily I could have driven myself to hysteria by thinking about all the things that might have happened. But they didn’t. And I didn’t.
Why didn’t I?
It’s really tempting to think about all of the things that might have happened, or should have happened, or that I should have done, or that someone else should have done. But unless I’m willing to take a lesson and move on, that kind of obsession only serves one purpose: It’s a great distraction.
I realized many years ago, when I was driving to work while seething at my husband for something, obsessing over him and what he had done, that when I obsess like that it’s usually because it is a great distraction from what’s really going on with me: What feelings am I avoiding? What part did I play in the situation? What action am I trying to avoid taking?
I hate that.
That kind of revelation is very humbling. And very useful.
Having learned that about myself has saved me a LOT of wasted energy over the years, and prevented a lot of escalated misunderstandings.
Now I notice
It has taken a lot of practice, but it’s much easier now to notice when I start to escalate and pull the plug on it, asking myself, “What’s really going on?”
(Although I admit I get a perverse thrill of fear from taking out the idea of rolling over on a spider and finding it in my hair and waving that scenario in front of myself several times so far today. Shivers.)
This type of obsessive distraction can cause a lot of problems, both in personal relationships and at work. Learning how to unplug it can improve both personal relationships and work situations – by improving my self-knowledge.
Do you ever find yourself obsessing over something? What do you use those tangents to distract yourself from? More importantly, how do you pull the plug on it?
Hm, what’s that itch on my foot?
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