Unforeseen Circumstances

While walking on the side of Kenmount Road last Thursday afternoon a passenger in a passing car threw a cup of warm coffee out the window which hit me in the leg. Whether the person was aiming for me or not is beside the point. My initial reaction was to assess for damage. There was no pain or signs of injury. Then my focus shifted to the people in the vehicle so as to identify the assailant, but the reflection of the bright white clouds made it difficult to see through the back window. By this point the car was too far away to make out the licence plate number.

This is the first time something like this has happened to me. Now my reason for sharing this incident has nothing to do with playing the victim, but to provide perspective into the nature of reactive behaviour. My following course of action consisted of sprinting after the vehicle with the intent of apprehending the person. The traffic light turned red in my favour, but instead of the driver slowing down and coming to a stop, s/he took a right at the overpass, making it impossible to catch them.

Would you say this was an example of over-reaction on my part? Based on my action alone it might be difficult to decipher, so allow me to draw upon a past experience for the sake of clarity: Over a decade ago a drunk driver hit the back of our vehicle and within seconds speedily made a U-turn away from us. The 911 Responder said it was ok to pursue the assailant as long as it was safe to do so, and so we ended up catching him at a dead end street, where we blocked him off and waited for the police to arrive.

Thankfully no one got hurt but when the adrenalin subsided my body started to convulse under the freezing cold of a winter’s night. This in turn filled my mind with agitation, which made it hard for me to give an accurate description of what took place before the accident. In other words my ability to recollect was impeded through a temporary confusion brought on by the shock to my nervous system.

This happens to be the crux of today’s exposition; namely, reactive behaviour, and how we can navigate our way through an unexpected situation when our brains are flooded with emotional stimulation, anxiety and/or confusion. When you’re thrown into battle, so to speak, you may not have the leisure or convenience of taking council. In other words sometimes we have to act to the best of our ability without possessing the full knowledge of the circumstances on hand. So what might be one thing that we can do that would help keep us adaptable for unforeseen circumstances? Here’s one possible answer to this question.

                   Remain Calm – Seek Understanding – Act Accordingly

There’s no Nobel Prize for keeping these three aspects of proactivity in mind but maybe there ought to be. Nevertheless they allow us to remain composed and better able to make appropriate responses. Removing the obstacles and maintaining a lifestyle that fosters these gems of equanimity are conducive to wellbeing. They also help us to preserve ethical responsibility without getting bogged down in rules that may not be relevant to a particular situation.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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10 Responses to Unforeseen Circumstances

  1. Wise words indeed! It reminds me of a story about a man with a severe sunburn. When someone gently bumps into him on the street, he feels attacked, scared, angry, etc. Another person may have smiled & said hello, or being Canadian even said excuse me to the one who bumped into him. It’s our own state of being that influences how we perceive and act an incident. If in that state of equanimity you talked about, we may have been able to assess that the one who bumped into us is suffering some malaise causing him to walk unbalanced and even be in need of our help. To add another analogy I like, a drowning person can’t help or react correctly when another drowning person splashes and pushes their head under water. But if we’re in a position where we’re on shore and aware enough to realize they’re drowning, not splashing us out of malicious intent, we can take the steps to help him.

    Glad you didn’t get scalded.

    • Nice introspective thinking D, and you are so right about the Canadian eh! =)

      How about yourself? Besides daily meditation & yoga, eating well, getting your 8 hrs of sleep and sufficient exercise, how do you tame or train yourself to deal with stressful events?

      • I find Dr. Greg Baer’s books on Real Love and exercises great for this. I shocked myself last week when another driver crossed 3 lanes and had I not braked, would have clipped the front end of the car. After a brief honk (reaction), I instantly calmed down. At the next traffic light, I asked him to roll his window down (which I was surprised he did) and lovingly told him his back light on the driver’s side was out. I was beaming all the way back to my place. Dr. Baer explains that it’s our judgment we need to change in the Event->Judgement->Feeling->Action loop. I was glad I was safe, but also glad I didn’t hurt myself through anger (with thoughts that could have spun in my mind for hours if not days). I’m learning I can’t control others, just myself. I’d had an amazing morning until then with my cup filled with nature time, so I was better able to handle it (including the reflex to break) than on other days.

  2. “Remain Calm – Seek Understanding – Act Accordingly” A wise and timely post! Thank you Jason for sharing your relevant experiences and reflections on this. Summer Solstice Blessings, Deborah.

    • My pleasure. Thank you for responding. So how about yourself Deborah? How do you tame or train yourself to remain calm & composed for stressful events?

      • During the stressful event I recognise myself in Andreas example of the second monk who when slapped would jump up but remain calm. After the stressful event I’ve always found putting pen to paper (journalling) to be the best way forward, or perhaps walking in nature. Writing and walking are two ways, other friends go for long jogs instead.

  3. Thank you for sharing 🙂 Reminds me of a story:

    On their daily walk one of the Zen disciples asked the master; what is meditation?

    The master continued to walk and they approached the area of the more advanced disciples.
    A man sat meditating in the shadow of a tree. The master went over and slapped him. The meditating disciple jumped up and almost hit the master, but as he realized it was the master he said; Sorry!, and sat down again.

    The master just continued to walk and not much later there was another disciple meditating that the master also slapped. He jumped up but remained calm.

    The third disciple the master slapped remained sitting without reaction. Then the master turned to the confused disciple; This is meditation!

    • Let’s hope that this so called master is never put in charge of keeping a urban community safe. Although I suppose you can’t go wrong with a daily practice of meditation eh.

  4. BrittnyLee says:

    Wise thoughts and words. It’s tough to be dealing with that kind of behavior. I’m happy you were not hurt. Hopefully that person just got you on accident. People can be so irresponsible

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