Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oops, I Did It Again!

Yesterday, I was, in the words of Pema Chodron, hooked. Being hooked triggers our habitual fear responses. We can get hooked by something as simple as missing a green light when we are rushing somewhere. When you are hooked you feel a familiar tightening, a withdrawing, a wish for relief, a wish for things to be something other than what they are. Being hooked can make us feel angry, ashamed, anxious, jealous, and other emotions that poison us.

There is a great ad campaign for Southwest Airlines. In the commercial, someone does something really embarrassing. As soon as the realization hits and the person wants to crawl in a hole somewhere, a voice says, “Want to get away?” It’s a great commercial, because all of us can relate to the person who has just goofed. We’ve all been there.

Yesterday, I thought I had goofed. But I didn’t stop there. My mind raced with all the possible consequences of my perceived bad judgment. Each consequence was more dire than the last. I tried some of my techniques. I breathed deeply. I reminded myself of the Dalai Lama’s words, “If the problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry. Alternatively, if there is no way out, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you can’t do anything about it anyway.”

I tried to pause, to sit with the feelings and not panic, to wait and see how things developed, to trust that everything would be all right. But it was too late. I was hooked like a fish who had swallowed the hook. My imagination was a runaway train, and my efforts did nothing to slow it down. I couldn’t eat. I felt sick. My world seemed to be crashing down around me.

I raced around all day trying to anticipate and prepare for the worst. And then towards the end of the day, a miracle. The situation righted itself and all was well. It took me awhile to grasp that I hadn’t made a mistake after all. I took stock. I was wrung out. My stomach was still knotted up. I had a headache. It was like waking up from a bad dream. And that is all it was, after all. A dream I made up and then believed.

I laughed weakly and practiced a little compassion on myslf. My therapist used to tease me gently when I would fall off on my high horse expectations of perfection. “Welcome to the human race,” she would smile. It’s good to be home.


  1. I started reading your blog last week and decided I needed to go back to the start and read all your entries. There is so much that is meaningful to me right now in what you have written. I like the image of being hooked and hope I can remember that the next time I am in a situation that grabs me and shakes me when there is no reason to be fearful.

    1. Anonymous--I'm so pleased that my blog is offering something helpful to you right now. And I'm intrigued that you are reading from the start. I hope you will continue to comment as you go along.


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.