The Red Car
couple pointing at something

The Red Car

Photo by Frenjamin Benklin on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed, when you consider buying a new car and wonder if you should buy a red one, that’s all you see? Red cars everywhere. Social Media has tapped into this and uses the technology to read my thoughts. One random internet search and all kinds of similar suggestions pop up on my news feeds.

I sometimes do this to myself. Something will happen in one of my relationships. I start overthinking. We can all agree this is one of my superpowers, second only to sarcasm, but to be honest I employ that particular power too often.

The topic of false narrative has popped up several times in recent weeks. I am beginning to catch myself creating false narratives. I’m really good at spinning out scenarios inside my head. For example:

I feel like I should do/say “this”. I act on this feeling. A response or reaction occurs. Now the real fun starts. “They said that? I can’t believe they said that! (Red Car) I just knew they would react that way. (Red Car) Well if that’s what they really think, …” and the second guessing and misunderstandings spin out until all you see are metaphorical Red Cars.

By now the damage is done and it can take a great deal of time, energy, and resources to straighten it all out. Hurt feelings need healing. A damaged relationship needs re-setting.

What if, when I have a question about the other persons response, I ask the question, instead of assuming I already know their answer? That would require me to admit I do not, after all, know it all. Do I have that kind of humility? It would encourage response rather than reaction. Now I am engaged in a calm respectful conversation instead of blowing something up that was so very simple to begin with.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Avoid assigning motivation. When you assign motivation you have already created an entire backstory that informs the other persons reactions.

Backstory is helpful. When someone lets you into their story on a deeper level, they are gifting you with a great deal of trust. That’s a beautiful thing. It is also a huge responsibility. When a misunderstanding arises and I assign motivation, I misuse that gift of trust. That’s when hurt happens, walls go up, and relationship gets damaged.

This can happen even in the closest of relationships. I have been married for 32 years. My daughters are both in their twenties. I can easily assign motivation because I think I know everything about them. I DON’T! There are parts of their story that I don’t always see. Experiences, decisions, thoughts, feelings that haven’t been shared with me. When I assign motivation I disable an opportunity to meet them at a deeper level. That would be a big loss for both of us.

Now flip that coin. Sometimes I am the one who reacts to a situation based on what I believe they know about me. I forget there is a lot that goes on inside my head and my heart that no one else sees. (You’re welcome, by the way!) I might assume that the other person is an idiot/hurtful/insensitive for asking me that question/making that statement since they must have thought about my feelings and thoughts before speaking. Wow. Now that’s a whole new level of arrogance and entitlement. And yet we do that so often.

It’s a clear case of RCS. Red Car Syndrome. Like it? Thanks — I just came up with that. I think it’s going to catch on.

Let’s agree to start noticing other cars. Blue, maybe. Or black. I like black. It’s a slimming colour. I’ll take that wherever I can get it.

How about we stop looking for colors all together. And we start looking for kindness. Compassion. Understanding. Lack of judgment. And remember we don’t know it all.

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