“Can I drive?”

“Can I drive?”

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to drive. Most of my childhood fantasy play was about driving cars and trucks. If it had a motor and could be driven, I wanted to be the one driving it. To this day I still love to drive as I put hundreds of miles on my car each week. When did you first have the inclination you wanted to drive? Did you ever bug your parents to steer as they drove?

Driving is not necessarily a philosophical undertaking in need of study, although I have no doubt this has been done (and no, I have not researched it). But I have spent time reflecting on what it is about driving which is so attractive to me, and possibly to others. Obviously it is my love of the journey, but is there more to it? Do I also like the sense of control? Does driving give me a sense of control in life? Ok, so maybe I am getting a bit philosophical, but I do feel there is a connection.

Why do we as humans need to be in control? Anthropologically speaking, the advance of the species has been one of control. Control of our actions, controlling our environment, etc. Through controlling our environment and actions, humans learned to hunt, prepare food, seek proper shelter and clothing. The more we as a species learned about control, the more we advanced. But, the more we advanced and felt in control, events beyond our control would happen, usually in the form of natural occurrences (disasters). Ae we ever truly in control?

All of us, to varying degrees, seek to control our lives. When we realize we can’t control an aspect of our life we become stressed, anxious. The next time you are feeling stress think about it and I will bet it is over something for which you have no or little control. We have created coping skills for ourselves to deal with stress, some of these skills more effective than others. But in actuality, if we focused our energy on the issue we feel we don’t have any control, we might find we do have some control and therefore could reduce our stress.

The next time you catch yourself feeling stressed, stop, refflect a moment on what is happening in your life. If you find the issue is an event for which you feel powerless, get a piece of paper and a friend. On the paper make 2 columns. One column is labeled “what I can control” and the other “what I can’t control”. Working with the latter column first, list all those aspects you dont have control over, namely the actions of others or natural happenings. In the former column, list those aspects for which you do have control, namely your actions, aid from others, anything you can influence or change. Focus on this list while ignoring the other list. There is nothing you can do about the other list so stop thinking about it. Put all your energies in the list you can control, thus having the sense of driving and so being in control. The more you focus on the activities you can control, the greater your stress will decrease.

Our actions and thoughts we have learned in our coping mechanisms are the habits we have taught ourselves. A quote I have used in my life and in the course I teach to my college students puts this in perspective: “We are all enslaved by our habits. The only freedom we can find is to choose carefully the habits to which we allow ourselves to become enslaved.” (Terrance Gorski) Please give this quote some reflection. Don’t spend time and energy trying to get rid of your habits, rather, create habits positive to your existence.

For me, the lesson to be learned is from our ancestors. When they had a need, they took action and found ways to control aspects of their lives. What aspects of my life can I control? What aspects am I trying to control, yet are out of my control?

So, the next time you get behind the wheel to go somewhere, or a young child asks “can I steer?”, think about our earliest ancestors and reflect on what we can learn from them.

The next milestone on the journey “…two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” Reflection to be posted in a couple days.

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