Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Irrationality of Road Rage

Frustration behind the wheel…I’ve always wondered why this phenomenon exists. What is it about getting behind the wheel that turns otherwise peaceful human beings into profanity-spewing savages? When I was in grad school, one of my professors talked about how road rage is one of the most universal of all phenomenons. He said it’s experienced by all personality types and is found in every culture on the planet.  

For some reason I found this fascinating.
Truthfully, I don’t think anyone is completely immune to road rage. I’ll bet even the Dali Lama himself, if faced with being cut off in rush hour traffic, might temporarily abandon his peaceful ways. I studied something in one of my graduate classes that I feel could ease frustration behind the wheel. It stems from a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, or REBT.
Here’s the nitty-gritty: REBT basically challenges us to be cognizant of how irrational our thoughts can sometimes be. Here is a perfect example: Let’s say that we hear two people laughing about something, and then when we walk into the room all of a sudden they become quie. We might assume that they were laughing about us. Sure they may have been - but why do we automatically assume the worst? Perhaps they were just sharing a funny personal story that they didn't want anyone else to know. 

We've irrationally assumed that it was personal.  
Have you ever known people who actually take it personally when someone passes them on the road? Stop and think for a second how irrational that is. Why do we care if another person passes us? Getting cut-off is another trigger. Yes it’s annoying, but why do we take it so personally? Why do we let it make us so angry? REBT-thinking prompts us to examine how silly we're being :-) Again, I’m not immune to these feelings, so when I say “we” I am including myself. I will say though that engaging in REBT-thinking has helped me greatly and has drastically changed the way I view such incidents.
Do you find yourself easily angered behind the wheel? Have you had any scary road rage experiences? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Optimism and Pessimism

Optimism and pessimism – two diametrically opposed personality traits. We all know people who fall into both categories. Relatedly, each of us falls into one of the two categories as well. 

Like most personality traits, pessimism and optimism exist on a continuum. A pessimistic person has moments of optimism, and an optimistic person has moments of pessimism. However, each of us leans one way or the other. Generally speaking, we each view the world through either a positive or negative lens. 

Many people become negative over time after experiencing pain and heartache in their life. However, I believe this is a vicious cycle. Negative thinking results in things that will only bring about more negativity. Furthermore, people do not want to be around negative people. It's a real buzz-kill. So when negative people alienate those around them due to their negativity, the resulting loneliness results in even more negativity. The monster has been fed. 

But the cycle can be broken. We own the cycle. 

Some of the most positive and uplifting people in history (Martin Luther King jr., Gandhi, Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller) haved experienced unimaginable pain...but they did not lose their positivity. 

Positivite thinking can truly enhance one's life. Is it a magic cure for all ails? Of course not. But it can change the entire way that a person views the world
Do you believe pessimism and optimism are inborn personality traits, or do you believe that they develop over time? Can they be changed? Are you glass half-full or glass half-empty? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

What's Your Argument Style?

My sister and I practicing our argumentative skills :)

Argument style. We all have one, but I wonder how often we have sat back and analyzed ours. 

I tend to have a very stubborn argument style. I just don't understand how people can have opinions that are different than mine?? I mean what's up with that!? I rarely am able to bring myself to give in if I feel that I am right. I know that's not healthy. I don't usually raise my voice, but sometimes I must admit that I do. 
That's not very optimistic existentialist-y, is it? 
When I was a little boy, I was very introverted and rarely ever stood up for myself. Sometime during my teenage years, I resolved to never be that way again, and I think that that has molded my argument style as an adult and made me more stubborn than I should be. I need to work on my stubbornness and my inability to sometimes give in.
I will say that, after the fact, after the emotions of the argument have settled, I can always look back introspectively and realize what I could have done better. I always try to learn from my mistakes. And I am a strong believer in apologizing when I am in the wrong. So even though I am a stubborn person, I will always apologize if, looking back, I know was wrong. 
It may sometimes take me an hour or two though. Or sometimes a day or two. :)
What is your argument style? Are you passive? Aggressive? Stubborn? Somewhere in between? Or something else altogether?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Blaming of the Poor for Being Poor

This quote really touched me deeply. I have always bee taken aback by the unfair ways in which society stereotypes those in need. 

A lot of people seem to view welfare as a "handout", but legitimately poor people do exist in this country. Nobody wants to be poor or aspires to live in poverty. 

Do some people abuse the welfare programs? Sure they do. There's always abuse in any program. But that doesn't mean the people who legitimately need it should be punished because of the actions of those who abuse the system. If we did that, we would have no system for anything, since every system is abused by some people. 

Anyone can be befallen by hard times and be forced to rely on food stamps/welfare for a while until they get back on their feet. People are befallen by catastrophic illnesses that bankrupt them, layoffs, downsizing, natural disasters, etc. 

Any of us could be closer to being in this situation than we'd like to admit. It's sad to me that we lump all welfare recipients together. Those who abuse the system constitute the vast minority of recipients. 

The true measure of a nation is how that nation treats those in need.

Do you think we unfairly judge those who are poor and in need of social welfare programs?