My Car Was Broken Into
Justified feelings of anger. The real test of stoicism
My car was broken into the other week. It was a brazen attempt at theft - occurring during daylight hours right next to a main road. It didn’t take long for me to figure out they had messed with the ignition, meaning they were trying to steal it. It was towed and assessed by the insurance company which deemed it as uneconomical to repair.
So I was without a vehicle, the police couldn’t find the person who did it and the insurance payout wasn't as much for a car of equivalent quality. It didn’t seem fair. Of all the cars in that car park, they went for mine. Through no fault of my own, I was going to be down a few thousand dollars.
I had the right to be angry. Upset. Dejected. If people asked me how I was going I could say ‘shitty’ without exaggeration and they’d understand.
In other words, I was justified in how I felt.
But, did I want to feel this?
Out of all the emotions I could experience, why would I choose the negative ones over the positive ones? How could this be conducive to my overall well-being?
It was time to invoke one of the many stoic quotes I had heard in the past:
“It is not in our control to have everything turn out exactly as we want, but it is in our control to control how we respond to what happens.”
The only thing that is under our control is our own emotions.
I was definitely bummed out for a few days, but I got over it quickly. I can imagine others going through similar experiences and brooding over negative feelings instead of dealing with them, letting pessimism envelop them entirely.
I did not want this to define me, so I tried my best to change my outlook.
I started to think how much worse it could have been. They could have stolen over $1000 worth of stuff as well as my car. I could have not had insurance which would have made me buying a new car $2000 more expensive. Or they could have successfully stolen my car and used it to commit other crimes. This transformed feelings of cynicism into gratefulness.
I reframed my mindset about purchasing another car. Instead of thinking, ‘I have to go buy another car now’, I switched it to, ‘I get to go buy another car’. This frames it in a way of excitement, of getting to do something you enjoy rather than being forced to do something you don’t. It became rather fun searching for different cars, and seeing what was on offer. I was going through the exact same experience, the only thing that changed was my thoughts in relation to it all.
The attempted theft is now but a distant memory and I got a wicked deal on a car that I’m delighted with. I believe my overall happiness has increased despite my misfortune, all because I chose to focus on things under my own control.
Late one night I was driving to the gym. I came up to a set of traffic lights that just turned red. It was midnight and the streets were empty. It was safe for me to have run the red light and no one would have known. But I stopped anyway.
After what felt like waiting for an eternity I took my foot off the brake in anticipation of the lights changing, and they did! But I had to slam my foot back on the brake because the light had changed for the bus lane, not for me. If you had walked past, you’d have heard me howling with laughter. I immediately recognised the hilarity of the situation. It felt like someone was playing a prank on me personally.
I didn’t have to stop at the light, but I did.
I could have run the red light, but I didn’t.
The lights changed, but not for me.
In that moment, I could have rolled my eyes and been a bit miffed by the situation. Obviously, I wouldn’t have flown into a fit of rage, but I would have been justified in feeling irritated. However, just because you’re justified in feeling a certain way, doesn’t mean that you should pursue those feelings. I chose to laugh. I knew that looking back at this moment I would find it funny. So why not enjoy it now, as well as in the future?
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.”
Big or small, I cannot change my circumstances. I have no control over my car being broken into or the damage done to it. What I do have control over, in fact, the only thing I truly have control over, is my reaction. I can choose to let it get to me and live in a slump for weeks, or I can accept what happened, put a positive spin on it, and move on.
Which do you think will lead to more feelings of happiness?