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.


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

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

The Young Boy and the Rattlesnake

By Stephen C. Schultz (Editors note: This is a story used in a Wilderness Treatment Program for Young Adults . Many come to this program having struggled with substance abuse and interacting with unsavory friends.)   Many years ago there was a young Native American who lived in the very land you are residing in. He decided to seek wisdom by journeying to the top of Indian Peak. As he approached the base of the mountain he came across a rattlesnake that slithered beside him. The snake coiled as if to strike and the young boy moved back quickly in fear of being struck by the snake’s deadly venom. At that instant the snake spoke to the boy saying, “Don’t be afraid of me, I mean you no harm. I come to you to ask a favor. I see that you are about to traverse to the top of Indian Peak and was hoping that you may be willing to place me in your satchel so that I don’t have to make the long journey alone.” The young boy surprised by the snake’s request quickly responded b

Navigating the Highway of Healthy Communication

By Stephen C. Schultz “I was on the road in my car last week. It was a long stretch of highway where it is easy for your speed to creep up. I looked in the review mirror and saw blue and red flashing lights. I watched as the right hand of the officer extended to lift a microphone to his mouth. He was obviously running my plates. I glanced at my driver’s side mirror and observed as his door opened and he stepped around the edge of the door and closed it with a single, fluid motion. In a cautious and calculated manner, with his right hand resting about hip high on his revolver and his left hand carrying some paper, he was at my door in ten easy strides.” Ok…now that you have read that first paragraph, what are you feeling? Did reading that stir any emotions? Could you relate to my experience? How many of you are smiling? You’ve been there…right? You know the feeling. Often there is dread. Sometimes there is fear. Most times there is frustration because you were just goin

Video Games, Anxiety and ADHD - Free Family Resources

 By Stephen C. Schultz Video Games, Anxiety and ADHD - Is there a common theme? Aloft Transitions Home for Young Adults This is simply a complimentary resource guide for parents of teens and young adults who struggle with ADHD, Anxiety and Gaming. ADHD:   • Russell Barkley,  Taking Charge of ADHD • Hallowell & Ratey,  Delivered from Distraction • Harvey Parker,  The ADD Hyperactivity Workbook for Parents, Teachers, & Kids • Bradley & Giedd,  Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy!: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your  Mind  • Gurian, Michael,  The Minds of Boys Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and  Life, 2005. • Hanna, Mohab,  Making the Connection: A Parents’ Guide to Medication in AD/HD •  (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) • • (American Academy of Pediatrics) • (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) Young Adult caring for new baby calf Anxiety: The following websites