The Mental Gym

“Danger to Self and Others.” When I hear this legal phrase applied willy-nilly to firearms ownership I think of those seeking to deprive citizens of their natural human right to self defense and how those crowing loudest about traumatized vets or others with general lifestyle troubles might just fail their own psychological litmus test. Not only with regard to guns, mind you, but within the context of everyday activity.

For instance, everyday in Los Angeles I see people driving (quite often in Obama / Biden branded) cars and SUVs with a wanton disregard for their own safety and the safety of others on the road. These menaces to society– and they are nothing less– are given the privilege of driving an automobile, and they habitually abuse it.

How? By intentionally breaking the law and texting while driving— not just typing a quick reply such as “on way” while stopped at a light, but rather swerving inside and outside their lane, sometimes into oncoming traffic while their heads are tilted down and their eyes focused on their smartphone screen as they are pecking furiously with both thumbs. Normally, these perpetrators are traveling at or above the posted speed limit, and frequently in residential, school, and construction zones.

Compare that aberrant, callous, anti-social driving behavior, and its resultant, astronomical daily rate of traffic fatalities and injuries to the hundreds of millions of guns in America owned by responsible, law abiding American citizens that remain safely idle in gun safes and that have not and never will cause injury nor death. Do the math– guns obviously are not a safety issue. Further, the FBI recently released it’s latest findings which show that even with far more guns in private hands than ever before, violent crime is at a forty-year low. Facts are facts.

Now, texting while driving is only one example. Others include cavalierly speeding through red lights and stop signs with (or without) a cellphone pressed to their ear. Yet another is carelessly whipping their car into a U-turn across two or three lanes of traffic, typically at speed and without so much as a glance over the shoulder. Or, get this, the driver who in mean-spirited interest of intimidating an approaching motorist making a late left turn at an intersection traffic signal, accelerates hard off his green light, aiming straight at the other driver. Regardless of outcome, this potentially deadly game of “chicken” is effectively criminal assault.

These drivers, without doubt, present a grave danger to themselves and others, and are arguably mentally imbalanced. How else could they continue to knowingly and routinely violate the law and put life, limb and property at undue risk? Do reasonable, rational people behave this way?

Do you know any such drivers? Could you be you such a driver?

Perhaps it’s time to preemptively remove these dangerous drivers from the road because isn’t it just a matter of time before they “accidentally” hurt or kill themselves, you, or one of your loved ones? How about, when licensing drivers a psychological stress test can be included as part of formal driver’s education? And, why not consider that any emotional outburst over the previous decade would preclude their being allowed apply for licensing in the first place? Or, maybe we can just ban cars and smartphones all together. LOL.

Actually, a good litmus test could be as simple as finding out whether people are fit to own and drive an automobile by checking whether they are able to put fact ahead of feeling when making decisions. Can they control their emotions well enough to rationally evaluate and navigate their circumstances? After all, giving in to infantile emotions and impulses– i.e., road rage, or choosing to text while driving– could very quickly lead to killing a whole family in one collision. It happens all the time. But, whether in heat of the moment loss of control, or a casualty of simple distraction such “accidental” death is doubly tragic because it’s so preventable.

Personally, I’d rather be shot and killed by an individual with ill intent than to become the collateral damage of some wholly oblivious teen, soccer mom, business exec, etc. whose careless text messaging trumps careful driving… Crash. OMG!

So even before cranking the engine we must ask ourselves,

Since being behind the wheel of a car is the same as having a finger on the trigger of a loaded gun, does my mental state make me a danger to myself or others?

And then consciously answer.

What’s Really Going On?

As a hypnotherapist I’m fascinated by the machinations of the subconscious. In my book, Fitness, Straight-Up I reference an incident where a professional motorcycle racer’s season was derailed following an uncharacteristic and unforced crash. At the time, the nine-time world champion was beginning to realize one of his upstart rivals was shoving him off the top of the heap— a hard pill to swallow. Ultimately, injury would be easier to accept for everyone involved than losing outright.

Say What?

The medical terms that describe this are “primary gain” and “secondary gain.” Psychologist, Dr. David B. Adams describes them such…

[Secondary gain] occurs when a patient’s symptoms are maintained because of the impact of attention, affection, remuneration, access to medication and other incentives.


[Primary gain] occurs when the injury solves an internal conflict for the individual. For example, the patient may have a fear or aversion to something at work… and their symptoms prevent them from having to be exposed to it. These may [include]… avoiding work tasks over which they are phobic (heights, closed spaces, etc [or, losing]).

Few would recognize such behavior in themselves. Fewer still would admit it. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon. As a fitness coach of thirty years I’ve watched it play out in clients time and again. (I also acknowledge that perception is projection— but I digress.)

Dropping the Ball

As a stumped Kobe Bryant posts on Facebook…

All the training and sacrifice just flew out the window with one step that I’ve done millions of times! The frustration is unbearable. The anger is rage. Why the hell did this happen?!? Makes no damn sense.

Oh, but it does.

The Los Angeles Lakers had been vying for bottom honors all season, and their superstar shooting guard was just as big a part of that failure as any other player on the team. Thing is, at the deepest level Kobe so detests the idea— no, the reality— of standing absolutely no chance at a championship that his subconscious provides him a convenient and selfish out. Injury. Now, the team he had been “carrying” all season can lose (or perhaps win) without him. Responsibility for failure— missing the playoffs for only the second time in seventeen years— is now lifted from his shoulders. Sure, an Achilles tear is physically painful. But the emotional distress of such sound defeat hurts more.

Putting on Big Boy Pants

Three years later Valentino Rossi‘s fight into second place in the first round of the 2013 MotoGP season may indeed mean he’s ready to challenge the mechanical consistency of current world champion, Jorge Lorenzo. In any event it proves he’s a good investment for Yamaha. As for Kobe, who knows? Maybe it’s time for the Lakers to exercise their amnesty option and summarily discard their 34 year old player and save themselves up to $80 million in luxury taxes on the salary they’ll be paying him whether he can play or not.

Hey Kobe…