Today's insight into my psychology
So, today, while I was driving home, I had just gotten off the Bay Bridge, and my mind wasn't particularly on matters of driving (actually, I was thinking about plumbing), when suddenly I was startled out of my reverie by the sudden sound of a siren behind me. I instinctively braked, but the cop (a motorcycle cop, which is my excuse for not having picked up on him in my rear-view mirror) showed that he wasn't after me and immediately sped by me. I suppose he was heading to something requiring his attention further down the road. Of course, I wasn't doing anything particularly illegal, but I almost certainly was over the actual speed limit (I mean, in that area it's pretty much impossible not to be, except of course during heavy traffic periods), so I was certainly glad to have not received a ticket.
I felt surprisingly shaken afterwards, though. I don't know why; I can understand feeling nervous and twitchy after having just been in a near-accident (which is certainly the case for me), but it's not like a ticket is all that bad (well, I suppose it can be, financially speaking, but it doesn't have the same emotional impact). In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the same is true for me about any "near miss" kind of situation: afterwards I always feel relatively drained and shaken, even if the thing I was missing wasn't all that terrible or traumatic. If I had to guess, I would say that since the bad event didn't actually happen, my mind can exaggerate it as being worse than it would actually be (certainly something I'm guilty of doing not at all infrequently), and thus feel more relieved about avoiding it than the event warrants.