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Posted Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at 9:00 AM

Do you ever wonder why some people do the things they do?

We all have our own unique perspectives and experiences. Our unique point of view is the lens through which we view the world.

The good news is we're all different.

The bad news is sometimes we forget that.

One of the things I've noticed about people, including myself, is that we often assume others have the same internal desires and motivations as we do.

Or rather, we believe others are like us until they do something we don't like. Then we make all kinds of negative assumptions. Ever said or heard any of these?

I can't believe he did that; he's just trying to annoy me.

She put us last on the agenda; she's trying to sabotage my team.

They cut the resources for our project; they want us to fail.

It's funny: sometimes all it takes is one action we don't like, and we immediately jump to the conclusion that the other person wishes us harm. It's amazing how quick and willing we are to attribute others with bad intent.

It's almost as though we believe we can read their minds. You did this, so it must mean that. Because if I did ABC, it would surely mean XYZ, so it must be the same for you.

Case in point: people who assume that the other political party is trying to ruin our way of life, or that a co-worker is trying to derail their career, or a that neighbor is trying to make them feel left out.

In reality, the negative motivation that we're often so quick to attribute to others is really just a product of our own minds, which is, of course, exactly where the problem lies.

There's a little part of your brain at the base or your skull called the reptilian brain.

Small and reactive, the reptilian brain resembles the mind of, well, a lizard. It's few inches below your more evolved frontal lobes, and it's job is to protect your from harm.

Picture a beady-eyed, little lizard clutching a cracker crumb as his eyes dart from side to side trying to protect his bounty.

Unfortunately, the lizard brain can't tell the difference between a threat to your life or a threat to your ego.

That's why when someone cancels your meeting, or doesn't pay appropriate attention to your cause, or cuts you off in traffic, or makes you feel threatened in any way, it can feel like they're intentionally out to get you.

But the little voice in your head telling you how malicious and devious they are isn't your higher mind talking; it's your less evolved little lizard brain.

Ignited by fear, once it takes over your internal chatter, it can sound like the voice of logic and reason.

The little lizard is quick to attribute bad intentions to others because it's convinced that world is out to get his cracker crumb. The lizard brain doesn't care if you're lonely or unhappy; it just wants to make sure you get to keep your cracker. So it assumes the worst about everyone.

But the reality is the lizard can't actually read other people's minds any more that you can. Just because people have different perspectives doesn't mean they wish you or anyone else harm.

Next time someone does something you don't like, don't let a judgmental little lizard convince you they're evil. Think with your big brain and give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Angst is in the air: Be careful it's catching
Lisa Earle McLeod
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.