There is a quote that is often attributed to Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) –“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
I am a runner, no… wait, that is a little bit of an overstatement – I am a jogger. There are few things that make me as happy as a sunny morning jog out in nature. I was bopping along this morning enjoying a gorgeous Southern California Sunday morning when a little bird happened into my path. He (I decided it was a “he”) was a cute little blue bird. He landed about 30 feet in front of me on the path. As I continued my run, he became nervous as I neared and flitted another 10 feet down the path. You can imagine what happened as I came closer… This recurred repeatedly for nearly a half mile before the bird ultimately got a bit smarter and flew away somewhere not directly on my path.
Being the over-thinker that I am, I wondered if this bird somehow perceived me as a predator, if it felt as though I was stalking him and not just that we were on the same path. I think we do this in our lives. We give intentionality where (maybe) there was none. Think about it – how many times have you been on the freeway and had someone cut in front of you? Are you likely to feel they did this TO you and it was ON PURPOSE? Hey, they could be totally terrible people or it could have been an honest mistake – you might have been in their blind spot. Have you ever been left out of some social gathering and assumed they did it on purpose? What a bitch, right? Could be… or it could have been an oversight or there might have been some reasonable explanation.
What does attributing intention matter? Well, if we are intentionally slighted, our response might be hurt or anger or sadness. We are a victim in the interaction. It might cause us to see the world a little more negatively. So, I see it this way – maybe we have a choice. We can choose how we interpret and react to these situations. The outcome is the same – you were cut off or left out, but, maybe, you can feel a bit better about it.