I was riding the subway 4 days ago, on my way to work. Some girl in her twenties walked by and sat in front of me. She took out her iphone and plugged her earphones in her ears, before hitting the “play” button. And despite the fact that she was wearing earphones, her music was LOUD. You could clearly hear her hip hop track’s every snare drum beat. I had initially planned to get some rest before arriving to work, so this was bad news.
Passengers behind her were turning around while frowning, so you could tell I wasn’t the only one annoyed.
Time passed, a few metro stations went by… and yet nobody had said anything. We were all just enduring her music without budging. I had begun to resign myself. But then I caught myself having the following thought:
“What a selfish b*tch. I guess I’ll have to keep enduring this for the rest of my trip. It sucks but life doesn’t always go your way.”
…and something snapped, as I immediately realized how silly I was being. That’s how the depressed version of me with no self-esteem would have reacted years ago. But not today.
I leaned forward and gave a light tap on the handbag she was holding on her knees, to get her attention. Her eyes left her phone, and she looked straight at me, caught by surprise. She then unplugged one earphone as I told her: “Hi, I’d like to get some rest before I get to work, would you be so kind as to turn your music down a little?”
She looked all embarrassed, and happily complied. A relaxing train ride ensued, while I felt proud for taking care of my needs.
Neglecting your needs over a long period of time leads to a build up of anger and frustration – that’s bound to implode, and contribute to feelings of helplessness that are so commonly found in depressive patients.
What can we learn from the above ‘subway experience?’
Monitor your thoughts and feelings
Monitoring your thought patterns is important, as it allows you to challenge your assumptions and prove them wrong. For this reason, I recommend that you practice both CBT and meditation – especially if you are prone to rumination. In the above example, I caught myself thinking somehting along the lines of “life sucks, there’s nothing I can do about my current situation.” Retrospectively, it was an utterly false statement.
I’ll add that the girl in her twenties wasn’t being rude. More likely, she was unaware of her music’s impact on her surroundings. Be careful not to let your negative outlook run wild: the world isn’t evil and out to get you.
The thoughts you have directly influence the way you feel; that’s why I emphasize how critical it is to learn how to take a step back and influence your mindset.
Convey your needs in a non-threatening manner
Communicating your needs in a straightforward, but non-threatening, polite fashion will get you much further than lashing out or blaming others. Believe me, I’ve tried tons of different approaches and this one works best. That’s because people naturally want to be good to others, and seek harmony. Had I yelled at the iphone girl: “OMG, don’t you realize you’re being SELFISH and ANNOYING everyone around you with your music??! Turn down the volume already!” …she might’ve refused to comply, out of anger. We could’ve even gotten into a useless argument, because I would’ve triggered her defensive stance. Talk about a headache.
Instead, notice how I first told the girl what my need was (getting some rest on my way to work), before formulating a polite request? That is key when trying to get others to do something for you. Threatening or accusing people is the wrong way to go about it – it might work in the short term, but it leads others to build resentment against you.
I took me a while before I got the hang of this communication method. It doesn’t just work with strangers, it’s just as effective with your loved ones. When they’ll see you opening up about something that bothers you, they’ll most likely do what they can to help out.
YOU are responsible for taking care of your needs
Here’s an important reminder: it’s on you to take care of your own needs. People around you are not necessarily aware of them, because we’re not mind-readers. In addition, everyone’s already too busy taking care of their own needs and problems, to pay attention to yours.
Having needs does not make you weak. Quite the contrary. Taking care of your needs actually requires courage. Understand that EVERYONE has needs, because we’re all human. I used to be ashamed of having needs. Heck, I probably wasn’t even aware that I had needs a long time ago, because I was repressing them. I didn’t want to bother others; I valued their needs above mine.
Let me tell you that this is such a destructive way to live your life and manage relationships. There’s no doubt that suppressing your wants and needs over a long period of time leads to depression.