Skip to main content

The Roller Coaster of Life

By Stephen C. Schultz


Over the last month I have been privy to some conversations by parents who are in the unfortunate position of having their sons in a therapeutic residential setting. No parent should have to go through this experience. However, in today’s society it is more needed and more frequent than most people are aware.

These conversations were heartfelt and emotional. In fact, some of the emotions felt by the parents were reaching a heightened and heated level. It started me thinking…which isn't always a good thing!

If I can share an example I had with my family, it may serve to provide some structure for how I express my thoughts around this situation. It also provides some principles that may apply throughout our lives.



My family and I were at Disneyland and we waited in that eternal line for the roller coaster; “Screamin”. My youngest daughter Emma and I happened to be placed in the front seat. She had a sparkle in her eye and a grin on her face… while I was filled with trepidation. The coaster shot out like a bullet! My knuckles were white from holding on so tight to the handle. However, she waved her hands in the air and screamed that joyful scream of an eight year old having the time of her life. Once the ride was over and we were docked at the end, Emma jumped out and said;

“Let’s go again Dad! That was so fun!”

I responded;
“I don’t know hon, that thing scares me to death!”

So, here is the question. Did the roller coaster really scare me to death? Did the roller coaster “cause” my feelings of trepidation?

When I first thought about this situation the answer was; absolutely! Don’t be silly! It’s a “cause & effect” scenario.  But, is it?

If it was cause and effect, then everyone on the roller coaster would need to feel the same way I did. The stimulus was the same; therefore the reaction should be the same. But, that isn't what happened. My daughter was having the time of her life and I was scared to death! Did the roller coaster really cause her excitement and my dread, even though we were both in the front seat having the same experience?

No… it is actually our belief about the “event” that creates the emotional response. It wasn't the roller coaster that scared me to death, but my belief about the roller coaster. It wasn't the roller coaster that delighted my daughter, but her belief about it.

Some might be saying to themselves; “No duh, Schultz!” But, the important thing to remember about this principle is not that our beliefs create the emotions. No matter where emotions come from, they are real. They can represent joyful as well as traumatic times in our lives. The difficult thing about this principle is the fact that the emotions we feel are ours…no one else’s. They are ours to work through and ours to feel. Often it is scary and often it is painful. Nonetheless…they are ours. 

I can tell myself that the seat buckles aren't tight enough or that the person controlling the start switch didn't do it right. I can complain about the long lines or share with others that there was a lady a couple months ago that fell out of a roller coaster and died. I can probably even find people coming off the ride who feel just like I do.  All of this may be true, but it doesn't change the fact that the emotion around it is mine and mine alone.

It’s my responsibility to own my emotions and choose to work through them. If they are too painful, I may choose not to deal with them at all. That is fine.  I might be perfectly happy to never get on another roller coaster ever again.

However, if I try and stop others from riding the roller coaster based on my emotions, then I need to realize that is a pattern that often leads to conflict with family, friends or community. In reality, my intentions may be noble as well as a bit misguided. 

This life experience brings with it many loop the loops and G-Force curves. Through kindness, thoughtfulness, perseverance and courage we will develop the skills necessary to navigate life’s next scary roller coaster.


Comments

Unknown said…
I liked your article, Stephen. I write similar stuff on my blog, modhealth.blogspot.com

Keep writing!
I appreciate your kind words Hugh. Thank you. I'll be sure to check out your blog as well.

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons I learned from a childhood experience with bullying

By Stephen C. Schultz The dew around the window was starting to bead up. In a classic case of chaos theory, the little beads of water gave way to gravity and randomly bounced and bumped their way to the window sill like a steal marble in a pinball game. There was a small pool of water in the cracked and peeling beige paint. I sat facing the window, staring at the small engraved stone nestled in the flower beds. There weren’t many flowers at this time of year. Mostly rhododendrons and Oregon grapes reaching skyward from the damp bark mulch that covered the planter area.   The month of January in Eugene Oregon was filled with days and days of mist and fog.   In fact, pretty much from October through June was filled with fog, rain, mist, showers, freezing rain and occasionally snow. The local weathermen didn’t bother with predictions about the chance of precipitation; they took pride in developing new adjectives to describe the type of precipitation and how much you can expect.

"Sugar and Spice" - A Child's Kindness

By Stephen C. Schultz I recall a childhood rhyme that went something like this; “…sugar and spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of!” As the father of three daughters and one son, there is no doubt about the truthfulness of that saying. I was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago with my family. We were down at Seaport Village right on the bay having lunch. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, light breeze and we were eating on an outside deck. We were engaged in a conversation about what we wanted to do later that day when I noticed my youngest daughter, a fifth grader, was focused on something else. So, I turned to see what she was gazing at. She was following the movements of a transient man who had walked up onto the deck and was systematically searching the garbage cans for food. He was looking in each receptacle and reaching in to move the contents around. At one can, his hand came out with a partially eaten sandwich of some kind. He reached back

Perfectly Wicked - A new take on an old fairy tale!

Guest Blogger Amanda Schultz Age 15 There she was…hair as black as night, lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow. Standing by the window, washing dishes, whistling while she worked. Snow White. I shudder with disgust every time I hear her name. What kind of a name is that anyway? “Snow White”. Gahhh, it’s a name that practically begs to be made fun of. Yet, there she goes, frolicking around like she owns the Enchanted Forest. No. I’m the Queen. I’m in charge. My magic mirror was mistaken. I’m the Fairest of them all, not that sorry excuse for a princess. One bite from my poison apple and that air-head will be so ugly not even her mother could love her. And I will be the Fairest once again! I suppose that I should rewind a little bit. It wasn’t always a competition between Snow White and me. In fact, back in the day, we had a nice little system going on. I would rule the kingdom and practice my magic, while Snow did the dishes and tended the garden. She stayed out of my w