Early the next morning, as I was pulling out of the driveway heading for work, I glanced over to bask in the glow of the fine work I had performed in the name of maintaining our first amendment rights. What I saw took me completely by surprise. Each and every one of my signs had gone missing, while all of his were still in place. The whole way to work, my mind raced with possible scenarios of what might have transpired. Maybe a huge tornado had devastated just my side of the street. Possibly a marauding band of homeless activists had taken exception with my political views. Or just maybe our landscaping contractor had put together a late night covert tree trimming mission and determined that the signs were detracting from the beauty of our Crepe Myrtles, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow the dude across the street had something to do with all of this.
Anyway, all “The Good Guys” won that election and I really didn’t think about the incident again until the next election cycle. While heading to work, I noticed a whole new crop of signs in front of the dude across the street’s house. All those old feelings came rushing back to me and I was determined to find out if this was just some sort of crazy coincidence or if there was in deed a plot to stifle my constitutional rights and therefore influence the outcome of the election. Back I went to campaign headquarters to procure another batch of opposing signs. When I arrived home that evening, I proceeded directly out to the street, rubber mallet in hand, and I pounded each sign into the soil as far as it would go, all the time keeping a wary eye out for the dude across the street.
The next morning, I got up early and anxiously walked out to the street only to find that once again, all of my signs had vanished. Now in my heart of hearts, I knew that it must be the work of that dude across the street and I was outraged. I’m not a violent man, but I have to tell you that I began to entertain certain sadistic fantasies directly concerning the dude across the street. One involved pulling up one of his signs and stabbing him in the eye with it. In another, I used a shotgun to decimate each of his signs while I forced him to watch with his one good eye. I am happy to report that I never acted on any of these fantasies (I don’t even own a shotgun, you can call home and ask my wife), but the thoughts continued to persist.
Several months later, my good friend and neighbor, Kirk, and I decided we would make a dump run in his truck to dispose of some old BBQ grills and patio furniture that had been piling up in the communal area for quite some time. As we pulled up to the end of the driveway, there he was; my arch nemesis, the dude across the street, and he was planting yet another sign. Without thinking or even any hesitation, I shouted to Kirk, “RUN THAT BASTARD OVER”. Kirk turned to me and calmly said “OK, but might I inquire as to why?” Concerned that if I took the time necessary to explain the whole ordeal, the dude from across the street might escape, I blurted out, “He keeps putting up those damn signs”. Kirk turned to me and said “I know what you mean brother. Somebody keeps putting up those signs over here and I just keep pulling them up and throwing them in the trash can”.
Now you would think that would have been the end of it, but those negative thoughts about the dude across the street continued to persist even though I had empirical evidence that the thoughts were not true. Luckily, I had been studying The Work of Byron Katie (thework.com) and it turns out that our mind tends to hold on to these stories, causing us to experience negative emotions like anger, fear and depression as a result of us playing an endless talking loop in our heads. I downloaded a copy (all the materials on the web site are free to download) of the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet and followed the step by step instructions and Voila, I am no longer plagued by this untrue thought process about that dude across the street. If you have some story playing over and over in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it, I suggest you give the worksheet a try. Keep in mind that you are the only person experiencing this negative thought and it has never even crossed the dude across the street’s mind.
Just keep asking yourself: Is it true dude?