Written by David H. Rosmarin
Last Thursday evening, as I was leaving the Center for Anxiety’s office on the 59th Floor of the Empire State Building, something strange happened: The elevator call button was not working. After several minutes, our reception area was congested with about 15 people seeking to take the 600-foot elevator ride down to the building lobby, and despite our best efforts none of the 8 elevators that service our floor were stopping to pick us up. All of a sudden, an announcement came on through the building PA System saying “Please be advised that the F-Elevator Bank is not operational. I repeat: The F-Elevator Bank is not operational. Please go to the freight elevators if you would like to leave the building.”
Sighing, my tired co-workers and I made our way through a dusty, dark, hot and stuffy hallway to the infamous freight elevator. As if that wasn’t bad enough though, unfortunately our saga was not over. Standing there with my fellow building tenants – a tired and irritated crew by this point – we heard the freight elevators whizzing by, being too full with passengers from other floors to stop and pick us up! Five hot and stuffy minutes of waiting for our alternative ride turned into ten minutes, which quickly turned into twenty! And at that point, I realized that I had parked my car in a lot exactly 24 hours prior and that the delay I was experiencing would trip me into a 2nd day of parking, which would cost me an additional $12-24 (occupational hazard of working in NYC). As they say: Arrrgh!!
Just at that moment, however, I received an email forwarded from my wife. The message was about the current state of affairs in Israel – being under attack by rocket fire and now engaged in a full-scale conflict. The message gave me pause to think about what it would be like to have rockets, instead of elevators, whizzing by, and the unfathomable concern of parents sending their children off to fight in a war. As I stood there, Galaxy 5S in hand, I suddenly felt palpably less irritated and distressed about my current situation. Even were I to be stuck in the Empire State Building all night and need to pay an additional $50 for parking – is that truly anything to complain about in the grand scheme of life?
To this end, here is a technique that is unfortunately seldom used in clinical psychology, but may have utility for dealing with frustrating life events, and possibly worrisome life circumstances as well: Imagine the worst! Envision living in a war-torn country, under constant threat to not just liberty and freedom, but life itself. Take just 30 seconds and try to picture what a single day would be like on the front lines of a military battle. And use that perspective to appreciate the blessings in your life.