Navigating Life’s Wrong Turns
Written by: Dr. Alyson Nerenberg
One of my life struggles has always been that I am “directionally challenged”. In the past, I used to get overwhelmed by maps and needed to write out my directions in words so that it would all make sense to me and I wouldn’t end up lost. Fortunately, one of the greatest inventions of all time has been created: navigation systems for cars and phones. Instead of having to pull over and depend on the “kindness of strangers” to provide me with directions, I can just follow my Waze app. This is an amazing life hack that many millennials take for granted.
In therapy sessions, I often share with patients my belief that the navigation system in my car is a great analogy for life. I explain that there are often times while driving, even with this wonderful navigation system, that I blow it. I miss the turn completely, or swerve left when I should have swerved right. What I love about the navigation system is that it does not judge me, it just tells me the next corrective action to take to right my way. The navigation system does not say to me “You screwed up, you Stupid Idiot!” Instead it says “Turn right.” There is no cruelty, sarcasm or judgment. It just tells me to “do the next right thing”. Twelve step fellowships have been promoting this slogan for years, and it is one of the principles which I try to follow as I live my life. Instead of beating myself up for my choices which were not exactly in line with my highest self, I just keep showing up and trying to do better. Whether I overreacted as a parent, or communicated too harshly to a friend, I concentrate on breathing, as well as slowly letting go of the harsh voice in my head that is judging myself. I often try to quiet that critical voice and focus on compassion and self-forgiveness. When that does not work, I just try to “do the next right thing”.
One thing that I know for sure, is that I will never be one of those people who always says the exact right sentiment, or who always takes the exact right course of action. What I have gotten better at however, is quickly correcting my course, apologizing when necessary and “doing the next right thing”.