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Stop That Runaway Train (“Oh no!”)

Stop That Runaway Train (“Oh no!”) post image

Let’s discuss a phenomenon I’ll bet most of you are familiar with. Raise your hand if you’ve ever suddenly discovered you’re chugging along through life on nothing but adrenaline and momentum, like a runaway train. And it was bad enough that you had no idea why you were doing it, you didn’t even know you were.

As always, I’ll rely upon you to bring more clarity to the issue through your comments; however, what I’m describing is living life in a, well, almost manic fashion. Now, be careful, I’m not using that term within the context of a clinical mania. Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is when we’re in this mode of functioning we often don’t sit still, rapidly go from task to task, talk excessively, excessively chat on the phone or text, and delay sleep. And in spite of ourselves, we’re incredibly productive.

So what’s up with this anyway? Well, I believe there are conscious and unconscious factors involved.

Again, your comments are valuable and necessary, so let’s begin with this list…

  • We’re running from something (a counselor once pointed out to me, “It’s much harder to hit a moving target.”)
  • We’re trying to keep people and circumstances at arm’s length
  • We’re trying to keep ourselves at arm’s length
  • We have no known purpose in life
  • Living life neck-up keeps us from the feelings that exist neck-down
  • We feel safe when something’s going on
  • Your thoughts?

Okay, so we’re cruising through life in this manner, thinking we’re free as the breeze. But you know what? A very inconvenient, yet inevitable, reality is gonna’ hit home. We, as humans, have emotional, mental, and physical tolerances. And sooner or later we’re going to hit one or more of them. And very suddenly we’ll be faced with two choices. We can forge ahead and risk some sort of emotional, mental, or physical short-circuit. Or we can volitionally slow things down and catch our emotional, mental, and physical breath.

Now, perhaps you’ll agree, this slowing down business can be really very scary. I mean, if you take another look at the reasons why we may have “runawaytrainitis” in the first place, you’ll easily see the implied risks of a change in behavior.

So what can we do to avoid this very sticky web?

  • As always, become aware of the phenomenon and how it’s traditionally presented
  • Begin to monitor our emotional, mental, and physical pace
  • Come to know the signs of moving too quickly
  • Jot down what’s going on in our mind and world as our pace has quickened
  • Jot down what it is we’re trying to avoid with our perpetual motion
  • Participate in planned down-time, pondering the contributors to our behavior
  • Practice! Practice! Practice!
  • Your thoughts?

Don’t know about you, but I’ve done a whole bunch of running in my life; and it can still very stealthily sneak back into the picture. I’ve said it before, my grandmother used to say I approached everything “like I was trying to kill a snake.” Well, I’m tired of killing snakes, so it’s all about awareness and intervention on this side of the fence. How is it with you?

We have two lists we’re building here so your comments are really important. Let’s talk it over.

  • “really very scary”? understatement. and I can see someone i love very much just keep piling on and adding stress and chaos into her life and i know the burnout and i worry about her. Then, there is the issue of once you slow yourself down, and think you get it (most of the time) life in this century creeps right back up and the office is constantly texting, emailing, calling all weekend and until 8 at night and in this economy you are too scared to leave for lunch or miss the email and you are right back in it. or do you (I) just attract that kind of job? no one in upper managment in my office takes lunch more than once a week- max and eveybody comes to work sick because they are afraid they will be replaced-i’ve quit answering the phone and emails after 8 pm, but don’t know how else to draw the line in a new job. I think i have a decent handle on boundaries for me time otherwise (usually- after a lot of practice- do you know Jon Kubat-Zin’s work?) i could go on forever here, but won’t. and what 2 lists are you building?

    • The two lists I was referring to were the one’s in the article – why we may be running and what we can do about it. With regard to your job details – that’s just nuts. And, frankly, there really isn’t much you can do within the context of it being a new job. But isn’t it selfish and a shame that management expects their ludicrous work ethic from their employees? Yes, read Full Catastrophe Living several years ago. Good stuff!

  • and just how many people who put off needed medical care because they ae afraid to miss work? and just how abusive is it for employers to take advantage of the situation? but I digress….where do you draw the ine between “necessary running on the treadmiill” and escape running? and the lines are so blurry…….. mindful mediaton by John Kubat-zin is another good one. i have said EVERY day for the last 2 weeks I was taking an entire afternoon off during the weekend or going to bed at 8 pm with a book- just veg time and and it hasn’t happened yet. i did set the alarm 15 minutes earlier (major yuk) so i could sit after my shower and try to mediate for 15 minutes ( of course I was multi-tasking as my hair was drying a little) this morning- maybe we are just back to my baby steps…….karen

    • Yes, again, that work situation is cruel, but unfortunately not unusual punishment. And you know, I actually prefer activity v. just sitting around. Not a thing wrong with that. But I think we know internally when we’re on the edge of being a bit over the top. I mean, your threshold is different than mine, is different than the next reader’s. But I knew a couple of days ago I had reached a frantic pace and needed to chill – and I knew why.