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Personal Musings

Channel your inner Keanu

Don’t be angry. Be Keanu.

Channel your inner Keanu. It’s a trick I learned at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of reacting to your emotions, observe instead.

Let’s say something upsets you. Our natural inclination is to run with that emotion until it burns itself out like a candle wick in a tin can.

I am mad.

I am irritated/frustrated/annoyed/anxious.

The Keanu method is to insert a specific introductory phrase at the base of your emotion.

“Oh, hey there, little [insert emotion here] dude.”

When used in practice:

“Oh, hey there, little angry dude. What’s got you bugging?”

It’s a way of removing the immediate self from yourself. In Zen, self/no self.

You’re observing yourself from a separate self/no self. We tend to get caught in our emotional states. Not long after, we realize the degree to which we were in that state may not have been warranted in terms of the time we allocated to that emotional state.

You may be thinking that will never work or that’s silly. Yes, it is silly. But you may find it works. It works even better when you say the phrase out loud because you are hearing yourself from a separate self/no self.

This isn’t meant to make light of an emotion. We should feel our feels. But I would posit a vast majority of our feels don’t warrant the sheer amount of time and attention we give them. I’m speaking for myself here but I’d estimate 85% of what annoys or upsets me over the course of the day is not worth getting hung up on.

Here’s one:

You’re on the road. Someone is driving like a maniac you spot in your rearview. Here they come, weaving in and out of lanes. They zoom up behind you and beep the horn for you to get the hell up the road, even though you’re driving safely and with respect to other drivers on the road. Doesn’t matter. They’ve got important places to be like Wal-Mart or Target or maybe it’s Bo Time! and a pulled pork sandwich with all the fixins is calling their name at Bojangles.

Do you:

What would Keanu do?

Option A. Oh yeah, two can play that game

Tap your brakes to further irritate the maniac driver and flip them the bird in which they, in turn, now follow closely behind you for the next five minutes?

Option B. Hold onto your anger then spread the love

Bite your lip, but continue driving, cursing under your breath, and take your annoyance at what happened on the road home to your significant other and share that joy of joys? Maybe you’ll even be short with your kids over something minor, never connecting the dots from what happened earlier and what is happening now.

Option C. Be Keanu

Take a few calm breaths, then say to yourself, “Oh, hey there, little angry dude. The driver of that car is totally bugging. Let us silently, to ourselves, wish him well on his journey and hope he and the drivers he shares the road with all make it to their destination safely”?

Our instinct may be to choose Option A. The choice we often go with, however, is Option B. But the only option that will not carry your anger longer than the drive home is Option C. Choosing Option C (“Be Keanu”) doesn’t make you a chump; it makes you a calmer, wiser human being who disallows the raging chimpanzee inside him to go bananas at every little thing that rubs you wrong.

Give it a try sometime. You may find that channeling your inner Keanu is a near Jedi mind trick on even yourself/no self.

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By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.