You don’t know what other people are thinking.
No one can get behind the eyes of another human being and truly know what they are thinking, feel what they are feeling, or experience sensations as they experience them.
Knowing this, reminding myself of this, has helped me find some relief from compulsive negative thinking.
Because there have been times when one of my bosses gave me a sour look. The kind of look that thrusts me into an obsession in which this boss is going to fire me, but is biding her time for some reason. Possibly, she’ll fire me after she finds a suitable replacement.
Or, if I text a woman of interest and she doesn’t get back to me right away, I assume she isn’t into me, or that she thinks I’m a boring, ugly dude with delusions that I’m somehow worthy of dating her.
In my head I hear Cher from Clueless shrieking, “AS IF!”
But the truth is, people are dealing with their own lives and their own stuff.
My boss might be having a rough spot in her personal life. Maybe she’s having financial trouble, maybe she had an argument with her husband before work, or maybe her kid is acting like a little jerk face and getting in trouble in school. The sour look could be from anything and have nothing to do with me.
The text woman may just been napping, or working, or rescuing otters. I just don’t know.
And that’s the point.
I don’t know.
I’m probably never going to be an optimist, but I can at least introduce the doubt into my pessimistic thinking.
I remind myself, “You don’t know what other people are thinking.”
This does help.
And sometimes, I remind myself of other times when I obsessed over negative thoughts only for everything turn out fine. Or, I remind myself of negative scenarios that I created in my head that turned out not to be true.
This helps too.
And before long, the boss will wreak havoc on whoever actually did ruin her day. And the groovy text woman will get back to me and I’ll find out what she was up to.
Man, I hope she’s rescuing otters.
This essay was originally published on The Goodmen Project.