How do you keep driving the bus when the passengers are out of control?
The other day my friend Kat sent a group text of an audio recording of an intense screaming match she was witnessing on a bus in Chicago.
It was night time, and raining, the bus was late, everyone was on edge, she was exhausted, and her last nerve was being tested. All she wanted was to get home, change out of her wet clothes, and sit in front of her fireplace with a glass of wine.
She did make it back home and is now actively updating her rain gear so she can ride her bike comfortably to and from work.
It made me think of the metaphor of the passengers on your bus. It goes like this…
Imagine life is like a journey, and you’re the driver of your bus. I like to think that mine is a fancy tour bus with clean bathrooms and a king size bed, but I might be messing up this metaphor.
The deal is, as the driver, you have places to go and things you want to do.
Over the course of your life, various passengers have boarded your bus. They reflect your thoughts, feelings, and all kinds of inner states.
You like some of these passengers, such as happy memories or positive thoughts, and others you feel neutral about. And then there are passengers that you wish had not boarded your bus; they can be ugly, scary, and down right nasty.
(This is where my image of a big, sexy tour bus gets in the way because I definitely would not let any of these characters on.)
Some passengers might be screaming and acting out aggressively, while others are sitting back quietly. Some passengers may even behave in a terrifying manner by running to the front of the bus and yelling directions at you.
If you’ve ever lived in a large city and taken mass transit you’ve seen these real life passengers.
So, here you are driving your life-bus with all sorts of passengers on board. The scary passengers might be threatening you and they want to be at the front of the bus where they know you can see them.
Fear may scream, “Turn here! Don’t go there! Stay on the approved route!”
Impatience may insist that you “HURRY UP! I’ve got all this stuff to do! You’re not going fast enough!”
Self-Sabotage may yell, “Turn around! The bus isn’t going to make it over these potholes and unpaved roads.”
Imposter Syndrome might come up to you and say “Who the hell are you to be driving this bus? Do you even have a driver’s license? We all know that you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.”
As the driver of your life-bus you take all of this very seriously and you stop the bus to struggle and argue with these passengers. You may try to avoid them, distract yourself, or throw them off the bus, but they are your inner states, so you can’t get rid of them.
They are permanent passengers.
However, while the bus is stopped, you’re not moving in the direction that’s important to you. You may also try to make deals with the passengers; you’ll give in and do what they tell you to do if they agree to keep quiet in the back of the bus.
This may feel easier than fighting with them, but it means the passengers are in control of the direction your bus is heading.
By fighting and struggling with the passengers or giving in to them, you, the driver, are not in control of your journey of life, and it’s likely that you are not heading in a direction that is important to you.
In fact a few of these passengers would rather you just take the bus back to the garage and park it there just to be safe.
But remember that you are the driver of your life-bus and you can continue to drive in the direction you want to go despite the difficult passengers you have on board.
You can notice a passenger telling you that you are a bad driver, but you do not necessarily have to believe these words to be true. You don’t need to stop the bus or change the direction.
You can hear passengers expressing their opinions loudly and aggressively, but you can allow these voices to remain in the background and your focus of attention on the road driving the route to your preferred destination.
If it helps you may want to put up one of those mental plexi-glass guards around you and your thoughts to give you a little extra protection.
So, I’m curious who are the most difficult “passengers” on your bus?
How do you, the bus driver, typically deal with them?
In the light of the bus metaphor, can you think of more helpful ways of dealing with the difficult passengers on your bus?
Hit reply and let me know your thoughts about this metaphor and how you’re dealing with your passengers.