At least once a week someone will ask me, “Am I crazy?” It’s one of my favorite counseling questions. Because I love to tell people they’re not. It’s a legitimate question, I guess. If you’re crying all day, punching walls, or if you’re too afraid leave the house it could feel like you’re ready for a room with padded walls.
A mentor of mine has a saying that I’ve found to be true: Behavior makes sense in the context it occurs. Basically this means that if we know enough details about someone’s situation then it would make sense why they’re acting and feeling that way. And what makes sense isn’t crazy.
A few years ago I was pulling onto the on-ramp for the interstate at the same time as another car. I had the yield sign. But here’s the thing: I didn’t yield. It was completely my fault. I misjudged how fast the woman driving the minivan going and honestly, I just wasn’t paying attention like I should have been. I cut her off and she had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting me. Once we were on the interstate I sunk down into my seat as she passed me. I meekly waved my hand, shrugged my shoulders and mouthed the words “Sorry”. I expected some sign language and maybe a honking horn but what I got was something much worse.
The minivan passed me and cut over into my lane forcing me to swerve and brake suddenly. She then slammed onto her brakes and I had to swerve on the shoulder to avoid rear-ending her. I slowed down and waited for her to drive away but she didn’t. Mrs. Minivan waited for me. So I gradually accelerated and tried to pass her. Nope. She wouldn’t let me pass and veered from lane to lane forcing me to stay behind her. And when we caught up to a large truck she drove next to him and refused to let me by. I took the first exit off the interstate and drove a different route to work.
It would be easy to call this driver “crazy” or “psycho”. (Fine I did.) But after I calmed down and had the chance to make sense of the experience it occurred to me: She’s driving a minivan and seriously tense. She’s probably got kids. I’ve got kids too that’s why I’m often irritable and stressed. Because parenting is hard (but that’s a completely different article). And what if she was running late after dropping them off for school? And what if she was frazzled and stressed and exhausted and overwhelmed? And what if she’s had all she can take and some guy cuts her off in traffic? Hello, Camel meet your last straw. She’s not crazy. She’s just done. Done with everything and everyone.
I don’t know what her actual problem was that day, but I’m going to cut her some slack in retrospect. Whatever it was, I bet it makes a lot of sense why she reacted how she did if I knew more of the details. And when we know the details and context of your situation, your behavior makes sense too. And once we’ve made sense of it, we can begin to respond to it in a restorative way.
If you’re feeling crazy and can’t make sense of your behavior or emotions, it would be my privilege to explore it with you as your counselor until you find some resolution. And if you see me driving crazy on the interstate, please be patient with me. I’m working on it.