I am especially skilled at taking words or actions and finding ways to make them somehow apply to me. Part of this could be thanks to my overly vivid imagination, part of it could be due to those helpful people I have encountered once in a while in life whose main purpose was to use words as weapons and try to affect my experience so that they could feel better. Thing is, even when someone is purposely using words as a weapon, they still don’t know they’re doing it, and you still can’t take it personally. All the perpetrator knows is that suddenly, for some reason, they feel a whole lot better.
If I could give myself and the world one big bit of advice, it would be “Stop Taking Shit Personally.”
Maybe polish that slightly before release, but you get the idea.
The amount of stress and suffering we would save ourselves if we could start doing this one thing is enormous. (I imagine, because I haven’t quite been able to master this yet). I personally seem to go through phases with being able to do this. Get me on a day when I’ve awoken, hair perfectly styled of course (it’s a new style called, “I just stuck a fork in a toaster, despite numerous warnings not to”), floated into my day with grace and ease, everything has gone according to plan, it’s a beautiful day, I’m feeling the love…and sure, I’m compassion-central and nothing anyone could do would strike me as intentional. I’m at least able to get my head around another person’s context.
But oh, get me on a day when I didn’t get much sleep the night before, I’m frazzled, I have no money, I’m tired, stressed, sulky, angry...put me in let’s say…I dunno…a shopping center for example (Based on real events).
Recently, with my mood brewing rapidly inside me, I paused in a common area of the mall to do some internet banking on my phone. Those that know me, know I am an internet banking fiend and anytime is as good as any for me to check in on those accounts. On this occasion, a woman with an unidentified context or perspective on life gave me a good shove.
We’ve all shoved someone in life at some stage whether intentionally or not, many times we would be horrified to hear what the "shove-ee" was thinking of us as we hurried away. As she looked back at me, her expression indignant, I knew she’d meant it. She wanted to change my Kaching banking experience into a Kapow banking experience.
What was I thinking?
My furious, eerily unblinking glare of rage said it all. The thought running through my head was pretty much along the lines of, “You just shoved me. I felt it, and now I know who you are. I will chase you down, tackle you and show no mercy.”
Instead, she warbled something angrily from her perspective on the matter (again, unidentified) and hurried away, probably genuinely afraid.
I then went on to get angry at an ATM machine, which purposely didn’t work properly, and to bluntly advise a Kmart checkout lady that no, we would not be returning the faulty salt and pepper grinders we’d accidentally selected, back to the shelf so someone else could select it and suggested instead that she get them fixed. The terrified look on my man’s face said it all.
I was taking a lot of things personally, and it was unpleasant.
This was such an isolated incident, yet it applies to so many things we encounter in our shared life with others. I know some of us (myself included) have met some really horrible and abrasive people who have said things with an intent that even they couldn’t fully understand at the time, and I know I too have been "mean without knowing". When it hits you in the gut it’s hard to be the Angel of Light and interpret everything using the voice of reason. Yet I am realising through practice, that there is always, always ALWAYS another perspective, another context, another explanation. It’s someone else’s. Even if someone wants you to feel like you’ve been hit by the Word-Train, what are they going through that makes it so necessary for them to do so? You might be surprised at what you find out. And as for the times when someone hasn’t meant to do any harm and is just, well, you know, speaking... try to take a deep breath and think about what it is you’re going through and what wounds you have open that their words or actions might be unintentionally hitting on. Again, you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Sometimes, all it takes is saying “Hey, I’m feeling really down about how my hair looks today and I feel like what you just said was directly commenting on that, because of how on-edge I feel about it. Do you feel unease at the state of my hair?”
To which they might be like, “The world doesn’t revolve around you, I just said I wanted to get a haircut because I literally can’t see two meters in front of me due to the new emo-punk fringe I seem to have gathered over the last few weeks.” To which you could say, “Ohhhhh haha yeah it’s true that you have an emo-punk fringe, but thanks for confirming that you don’t despise my current state of hair.” To which they might respond, “Oh, so you think I’m an emo-punk!?”
Yeah…still working on those conversations…
Until next time!