Thursday, March 25, 2010

Are we living on autopilot mode, because if we are, we are about to crash...

25 March 2010, Thursday

Just the other day, I was travelling in a train and I was seated opposite this family of four, a young husband and wife and their two small kids, an adorable little girl and a cute little boy.

I wouldn't have given them much thought until I realised something was amiss. The wife was looking very dejected and remorseful, and there was this pained look on her face, it was as though she was suffering from deep sorrow and she's shouldering the world's problems.

Their two kids who were seated in between the two parents provided some sort of barrier between the parents whom I suspected had a tiff and were not on speaking terms.

I may sound presumptous but I have this uncanny knack of being able to discern people's behavious and characters through their body language. And it was very obvious and glaring that both were in a world of their own and both looking distraught. Neither said anything to each other, nor did they communicate with their kids which further fuelled my suspicion.

And as I furtively observed them through my shades, I noticed that the little boy was closing his eyes, and was blinking them numerous times (he looked really hilarious). I wasn't too sure whether he was sleepy and was falling asleep, but the minute the boy started sliding down his seat, the mum's hand automatically caught him and pulled him back without saying anything or even holding him.

And as I continued observing this family, a pregnant lady alighted the train. The minute the boy who was seated next to the husband realised there was a pregnant lady, he gave his seat up, so the lady ended up sitting next to the father of those two small kids.

Again, there's nothing unusual about this, until I noticed with wry amusement that the man started leaning on that pregnant lady and I could see her acute discomfort. It was as though he wasn't conscious that the man who was earlier seated next to him had given up his seat and now a woman was seated next to him instead.
I could see several times, the woman shifting her seat so that the man's shoulder didn't touch her, and I also observed that she kept stealing glances at the man's wife to see if she had noticed this. Alas, as both were preoccupied with their own thoughts, they seemed oblivious to what was happening.
Most of us, if not all, go about life in an auto-pilot mode. One way to describe it would be our morning routine - we get up, brush our teeth, shower, and get dressed, all without thinking about it. Our body pilots itself without realising or being conscious of what exactly we are doing. This is good, because you wouldn’t want to have to consciously think through repetitive tasks.

But the problem is when bad habits and behaviors become automatic. For example, if you made a habit of waking up each day in a bad mood and thinking negative thoughts, this could have a negative impact on the rest of your day. 
It is mind-blowing how many of us are living our lives on auto-pilot. We do the same things, meet with the same people, have the same conversations over lunch, go to the same supermarkets to buy our groceries and watch the same TV shows when we get home. Even the arguments that we have with other people seem to evolve around the same issues.

Sometimes we go about life in a drunkon stupor until something happens to jolt us out of our reverie or dreamworld. There have been times when I’ve been driven home from work and not really remembered the journey.

I got there safely, but I didn’t remember most of the roads and turns that my husband or son had taken to get me home.

My morning routine is the same way. I’m convinced that I don’t fully wake up until about 15 minutes after I’ve showered. Up to that point, my brain is on autopilot instructing my body to perform my morning routine without me being fully aware of it.

If my toothpaste or shampoo is not in its usual place, watch out! I’ve reached for the shampoo and squeezed shower gel or body lotion into my hair on more than one occasion.

This phenomenon has never really bothered me until recently. One day it suddenly dawned on me that often I’m in autopilot mode that sometimes I'm totally immersed in my thoughts until I'm oblivious to my surroundings.

I went to watch a movie with a friend. It was the story of Children in an Orphanage. That’s really all I can tell you about the movie, because that’s all I remember. I remember the lights going out, and I remember the movie beginning. I guess my mind wandered far away, because I don’t recall anything else until the lights came up at the end of the movie and I suddenly realized I was standing up along with the rest of the audience.

How did that happen? I didn’t even remember the movie ending, much less engaging my brain and instructing my legs to respond by standing up. As I looked around whilst walking out of the theatre, I realized that I had been on autopilot again, simply going through the motions. To the casual observer it looked like I had watched the movie and enjoyed it with the rest of the crowd, but I had actually missed the whole thing.

The incident made me wonder how often I approach my relationship with my husband and my children the same way, functioning solely on autopilot.

Running on autopilot can be dangerous. In a morning routine it may be only a slight irritation. When it comes to driving it’s definitely not recommended, coz it can cause even bigger problems.

This auto-pilot behavior keeps us securely tied to our daily routines, preventing us from growing professionally, slowly killing the excitement of relationships, and sucking the fun out of our lives.
But the really devastating part about living your life automatically is that most of us do not even realize that we are doing it. Our days blend in together. We have a hard time recalling what we did last week and we have very little to look forward to.

We find ourselves reacting to outside circumstances, rather than controlling events of our life. Deep down we keep wishing for more, without being sure if there is more or how to get it. 

Are we living on autopilot mode? Because if we are, we are about to crash.

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