Morning traffic. Already running late. Story of my life.
But it was on this particular morning when I was sitting at a stop sign waiting to turn that I was actually able to dig into the hazy recesses of my mind, not yet responding to the caffeine I had been feeding it, to consider this idea: the way we drive our cars might be very similar to the way we shift our way through life.
I once took a dream analysis class and one thing I remember is that in dreams cars are thought to symbolize our bodies or our person. I suppose I can see how that could be; our bodies are also what transport us through this world.
While I was scoping out the scene on my morning commute, wanting to turn right but not get hit by the car/person in front of me, I noticed it looked like they were preparing to turn left because their wheels were turned that direction and they were positioned to do so. But I also observed that their right blinker was on. Well, which one is it, buster? The other driver was sending two conflicting messages: with their blinker they were telling me that they were going right, opposite of me; with their body language I thought they might try to turn directly in my path by going left. Both things can’t be true. But so as to avoid any damage, harm, and further delay, I assumed for a moment that either one could be true.
And so it is that my life seems to sometimes go, hearing what a person says, seeing what they do, finding myself on the defense because I know both can’t be true. Too much contradiction. Too little sincerity. Too much ego and not enough humility. But back to that 4-way stop…
They turned right. Then I turned right. And we both went on with our lives.
Never underestimate the power of being seen, heard, and understood. In this way our lives, our feelings, our experiences, our opinions and ideas become validated. We gain purpose. Life has meaning. This is what we all search for.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” -Chinese proverb
How frustrating it is to have good intentions only to be misunderstood in the end. But sometimes the way we act, the things we do convey meanings we didn’t aim to project. Through our behavior we communicate an unspokenness; a hidden truth to us; something buried so deep within that it often remains impenetrable even to ourselves. And so it becomes easy to do things that are out of line with our true nature as long as there remains this part of ourselves longing to be named.
But it’s not enough to label a behavior as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; in fact, this is inimical. As long as we carry on simply accepting certain conduct as acceptable or not acceptable, we cannot get to the nitty gritty of what our actions say about us in order to give a voice to all that we’ve been stifling throughout the course of our lives. This state of reticence creates drama and problems for us. It interferes with our ability to ask ourselves whether our behavior is in line with our core values. In fact, it can even prevent us from being able to identify what our values are.
We all know the importance of naming. There is a name for nearly everything under the sun. Expectant parents can have discussions that go on for hours regarding nothing more than what to call their child who is about to enter the world. Just think what would happen to that child’s sense of self if their parents simply chose not to name them. I imagine it would be confusing, disparaging, and lead to a host of insecurities and personal dilemmas for that person.
It is equally important to give name to the motivations behind our actions, avoiding judgement in labels like ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. We must really delve into the dark waters of our kaleidoscopic beings and ask ourselves those tough questions, such as: What or who does my behavior remind me of? What was I feeling when I chose to do this or that? Did my behavior feel like a choice? What are my biggest fears, where did those fears stem from, and how might my behavior be simulating those fears? What has brought me the most pain and suffering? Have I recreated that pain and suffering in someone else’s life? Forget right or wrong. Forget good or bad. This is you getting real with yourself. This is you giving a name unto yourself, one that you have chosen for yourself. Because once you can name the root of your pain, you can set yourself and those around you free from it.