• kathy

The Costs of Automatic Upset

I was in California recently and heading to Palo Alto from Berkeley. I was off to a social event that started at 10:30 AM. I had called the Lyftt arrival for 8:30 because I wanted to be on time, and had no idea of what the traffic would be at that time in the morning. Being on time was really important to me since I had travelled so far to attend. The Lyftt driver arrived right on time as we'd arranged the day before when he was my driver. I had given him five stars for his service.

All went well until I realized that we were picking up another rider. I had unwittingly pressed a tab on my Lyftt app agreeing to share my ride. No question, picking up and dropping off a second passenger was going to push the time I had allotted. And, as the consequences of my mistake began to dawn on me-that now I would definitely be late-I could feel myself growing annoyed and then angry. Angry at the driver, angry at the second passenger and angry at LYftt's shared ride process.

I could feel the upset in my gut spread to my entire body, escalating as the Lyfft driver, unsure of his destination, wove through residential areas, and then finally doubled back around onto a packed freeway. I could literally feel the minutes lost as the escalating anger flooded my central nervous system.

All this upset, despite the fact that it had been my fault. And I knew it was my fault. I had previously even made a mental note to correct the setting on the app.

But, knowing this fact did not change my reaction. I became short and ill-tempered with my competent driver. I slung a few choice-read rude-remarks at the innocent rider. And with each passing minute, I became ruder, tossing snarky comments to the air.

In the meantime, the poor driver, trying to calm me as I eyed the traffic stalled on the freeway, announced that he had a shortcut and that I would arrive with 15 minutes to spare. It didn't matter. I was not to be comforted.

But he was right. I made it to the event on time. Even early.

But really, the trip was not about reaching a destination on time, but rather about witnessing firsthand how automatic my responses are. Even to situations where the fault is my own and where there are no real consequences.

Clearly, even with awareness, I see what a challenge it is for me to manage the automatic upset that surfaces. What might I do differently? How might I interrupt these automatic responses that do not serve me?

I've started by thinking about what I would do if I had been the driver or the passenger on the other side of my unwarranted fury. Oddly enough, I was aware of their feelings at the time, but could just not stop myself. Perhaps, though, it is a first step toward building my capacity to grab hold of and then manage those willful automatic responses.

The next morning, I received a text message from the driver. He was scheduled to take me to the airport. His message read that he could not drive me as planned because he had taken sick with a headache, stomach cramps and a fever. Good for him!

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