Taking it Personally

bearWithin a 2 week period recently I had a number of fairly confrontational conversations in which the other person became rather aggressive and were really quite angry during the exchange. These were somewhat upsetting experiences for me as they happened within a short space of time and because I had never really experienced such heated situations. I was fairly rattled afterwards and found self-doubt creeping in to find its customary abode (it’s always lurking in the shadows)!

Because I am highly aware of my own self-doubt and have become attuned to the situations, people and external conditions that allow this energy into my psyche, I am very reflective when I feel it arising.

I realised I was taking these encounters personally (it was hard not to after the third one) but when I stood back from the heat of the moment and the tears in the aftermath, I could see that in every situation the outburst by each person was caused by either familial stresses, frustration at someone else’s behaviour or being offended by someone else’s comments (that were in reality about something that had not even happened).

It actually had nothing to do with me. The causes were beyond my control.

In situations where we are beginning to feel offended, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson asks us to consider what may have caused that person to “bump” into us. These might be things such as ‘misinterpretations of your actions, health problems, pain, worries or anger about things unrelated to you…’ When I stopped to consider this I was able to put the confrontations in context and have compassion for myself as well as the other person involved. Compassion really does soothe a lot of stressors in our lives. It always makes me feel better and definitely stronger (contrary to some people’s perceptions who may see it as a weakness).

This week, be attentive to the times you are taking something personally. Ask yourself ‘What is the reality of the situation? What’s the bigger picture?’ Try to step back from the emotion and tendency to replay the confrontation over and over in your mind. Stop and breathe. Sit with the emotion and see what answers arise. Taking things personally weakens us – don’t fall for it, stay strong and witness the peace that results.

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