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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Stop lights versus flashing yellow lights

Time and time again when I've run across (and gotten to know) people who have engaged in or are engaging in 'reckless' or 'destructive' behavior, I've discovered, learned or been told that they have been the subject of a significant trauma in their life.

I've known alcoholics and drug addicts who were abused (sexual and otherwise) at a young age, I've run across others who unexpectedly lost a close family member at a young age and have struggled.  I myself was sexually abused at a young age and at times made poor decisions likely tying back to that.  But I digress.  A friend of mine explained in simple terms what animates such a person.   Stop signs (lights) vs. a flashing yellow light.

Imagine being at a busy intersection and running into a stop light.  Well, unless we want to risk a ticket and/or an accident, we will almost always stop and wait for the light to turn green before we proceed.  Now imagine that intersection having a flashing yellow light--which means proceed with caution.  Most of the time we will proceed with caution, but there will be that time or two in which our impatience at the seeming endless procession of traffic will eventually wear our patience thin such that we 'just go' and in the process cut off someone (and occasionally cause an accident).   If shown a video of what happened we may be shocked at our behavior, but at the time the other cars seemed 'far enough away'.  In short, something in our mind and heart disabled usually good judgment.  Now to the person behind us who by virtue of their position realizes that he or she isn't going anyway, our poor judgment seems puzzling.   He or she wasn't quite in our shoes as he/she didn't have to make the turning decision yet. To him or her, how could we have missed the obvious traffic that was approaching us as we were deciding make the turn.  In short, our poor decision-making seems puzzling as it was 'obvious' to them that we shouldn't turn at that point.

In a way, that sort of describes those with hangups, addictions, and addictive tendencies.  To those around them: Isn't the destructive nature of an addict's behavior obvious?   I mean anyone can see that it is foolishness to cash your paycheck and head to the casino.  It's foolishness and dangerous to risk injecting or snorting that dose of heroine.  It's ridiculousness to go to the strip club and give away our hard earned money to the dancer who shows positive attention (at a price).   I believe many people with hangups like these at one point did see a stop sign (light) when hearing about or thinking about that type of destructive behavior.  But, imagine an unimaginable: Your life being turned on its head by a harsh or unexpected trauma.  While, we'd all like to think that after facing tragedy or traumas that we'd keep our wits, our good judgment, our wisdom, the truth is we can't really say for sure until we are in the situation. 

Imagine being a kid or a young adult if our parent(s) do(es) all the right things to be stay healthy, but end up being struck down tragically by sudden illness or an accident.  While we might not say it, but in the back of our mind, we are likely to think, wow, why bother taking care of yourself as you could end up just like them. 

OR

Imagine being taken advantage by ones you are taught to trust as a kid.  After that, it could be hard to believe that those who are supposed to have our best interest in mind actually do.  

In a way, instead of the distinct decisiveness and firmness of a stop light, such events could lead us to question the stop light, maybe if it is truly even there.  Such events could cause us to see the stop light as more of a proceed with caution or flashing yellow light.  In a way, such events could cause us to question what is passed off a given.  In a way, such events could cause us to wonder if making the choice we are expected to (waiting for the light to turn) will matter anyway.


Anyway, I just thought I'd share what someone told me once and how I received it.  I'm hoping that others might take a little of what I share and find it useful.  But, either way, I march on with my blog.

-- Rich