How Therapy Helps 2: Drive Your Own Bus Where You Want To Go

Therapy can help people drive their own bus after feeling stranded in the dark.

I don’t know what this woman is feeling, but it looks like she’s distraught. Maybe she is sad because the bus is going to take her to somewhere she doesn’t want to go. Or perhaps the bus is going to take her away from an awful experience. Maybe the buses have stopped running entirely and she is just sitting there, trying to gather herself in the only light available in the dark night.

I, for one, hope a bus comes for her. And I hope that she can take it to some place where she feels safe and accepted, nurtured and challenged to be awesome.

After all, that’s my job as a therapist – to journey with people in their dark night and to help them travel their path with clarity, acceptance, and empowerment.

Are you behind the wheel of your bus? Are your loved ones and friends with you on your journey? Do you feel loved, engaged, and sometimes even wise?

Are you living according to your core values (honesty, compassion, courage, curiosity, etc.) and beliefs most of the time? Or are you living a life seemingly designed by someone else, travelling on someone else’s schedule, going to someone else’s destination?

Often we are not guided by what matters to us the most. At those times, our sadness or our humiliation or our fear, or anger, or what have you is driving the bus.

That is natural and there are times when it’s ok and healthy to be overwrought with our emotions. If you are being chased by a leopard, the best thing to happen survival-wise, is for your heart to start pumping as much blood to your limbs as possible so you can run as fast as possible. That is one time when Fear should – and must – drive the bus. Thing is, when you get away from the leopard, you need your fear to take a back seat again. Sometimes our imaginations and nervous systems need a little help sorting out the “leopard” times from the “non-leopard” times.

Also, if a loved one dies, and the thought of life without them becomes unbearable for a little while, that is simply a part of your humanity. That feeling not only helps you honour and connect with the person you’ve lost, but will also help you love and nurture others who face losses, too.

Sometimes our emotions drive our bus for short periods and they take us to safety.

However, if you are writing a big exam, dealing with a tantruming child, or hosting a dinner party for your in-laws, being overwrought with Fear or Sadness or Rage is probably not going to take you to safety. ¬†At those times we need to listen to our emotions, to let them pull the chord so we stop the bus for a while if need be, but not to let the emotion drive the bus during the non-leopard times when ALL OUT PANIC won’t help.

Why? Well, when we are out of balance we actually lose touch with the rest of our emotional landscape. We forget to tune into our Joy, into our Gratitude. We ruminate too much and get locked out of reality. We fixate on the headwinds that hold us back and neglect the tailwinds, helping us crest the hill. All we experience is the cold bench and the dark night, rather than the warm summer evening air, or the fact that though the night might have sucked, we survived.

Luckily, we can learn how to listen to Sadness, Humiliation, Fear, Anger, and all of the other emotions so they help us make better decisions. We can tune into them and even appreciate them for the insight and wisdom they offer. If I’m driving the bus, I want sadness, anger, humiliation, joy, and excitement, surprise, and fear all looking out the windows, watching the scenery, letting me know if I accidently missed a stop. I rely on them to shout out if I need to back up to let someone on my bus or telling me there’s someone on my bus who shouldn’t be there.

What’s the name for a person who doesn’t have a full set of emotions on their bus? Who doesn’t feel sadness or guilt or shame at appropriate times? Sociopaths and psychopaths. And so far as I know, sociopaths and psychopaths do not have constructive values. They are not driven by love or courage or wisdom, but by power, ego, and rage. Their inability to feel and relate robs them of the ability to be loving, brave, or wise.

I can think of no greater disability.

The vast majority of us have immense capacity for love, courage, and wisdom and, thus, can live according to our values. When we can live according to our values – and drive our own buses – then strong emotions allow us to love and to connect with others.

 


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