I once heard a piece of advice that has kept me thinking–and chuckling: “When you’re in a traffic jam, or a careless driver has just cut you off–or something else has happened that you find frustrating–try praying. You’ll be using the same words anyway.”
Now, not all of us pray. And even those of us who do, may not find it easy to magically change “curse” language into a holy sentiment. (Besides, there’s some research to suggest that using curse language may help humans handle stress situations. People who were allowed to cuss when they held their hands in a cold bucket of ice water, were able to hold their hands in the ice longer than those who weren’t.)
Still, the idea intrigued me. What if, instead of just letting forth with a bunch of expletives under my breath (a practice I do find cathartic at times), I followed that with something positive or universalizing?
For example, in a traffic jam I could say my usual “_____ it, now I’m going to be late”; but follow it with “I’m here in a sea of humanity that’s just as frustrated as I am. We are all part of the interdependent web.”
If a thoughtless driver cuts in front of me, I could still sarcastically mumble, “Thanks a lot, you ____-ing _________”; but follow it with “Isn’t it amazing how much in a hurry so many people are–and isn’t it interesting how wronged I feel when someone cuts in front of me?”
Other possible add-ons for frustrating situations:
“This is a challenging test of my faith in the inherent worth and dignity of every person!” (for use when I’m judging others or myself).
“Spirit of Life, come unto me, sing in my heart…all the stirrings of compassion.”
“The goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” (Our 6th UU principle)
I suspect some of you have your own add-ons, which help you cope with stressful situations. (Do you call them “prayers” … or “mantras”?) If so, I’d love to hear what some of them are.
Meanwhile, I’m going to try out this piece of advice myself and let you know how I fare. And when all else fails, I guess I could use my old stand-by:
“peace and unrest”