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Don’t Take It Personally
by Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 Of all the debilitating emotional states that people engage in, taking things personally tops the list. I see it everywhere, and have observed its devastating effects on friends, family, and clients. It is one of the four agreements that Don Miguel Ruiz's book of the same name emphasizes. Why is it such a challenge for people? Getting “hurt” by someone is based on a belief, or beliefs, embraced early in life that has led to low self-esteem or self-worth. Let’s look deeper and discover what we can do to remove this effect from our lives.

 Taking things personally, whether it be directly from another person or indirectly from an event, or something read or heard, stems from something being triggered in your subconscious mind. Even though the remembrance takes you back to the original experience, which could be over with in seconds or minutes, it festers internally making you feel like a victim. Now, you decide that there is a perpetrator who must be punished for doing such a terrible thing to you.

 The ‘punishment’ could range from dislike to homicide. Usually it falls into the area of hatred or extreme dislike. Over time it festers and becomes resentment. The irony of this ‘condition’ is that it only takes a word, or look, or even a sound or smell, to set into motion an effect that could last a lifetime. One of the exercises I have in my peace class is for an attendee to forgive someone for something that happened between them. It not only is the hardest action for most to take, for many it seems impossible.

 What a sad state to be in – finding it impossible to forgive someone for a brief encounter that, for the person who did it, has most likely long been forgotten. Think about events that have occurred in your life. Pick one that is high on your list of “he/she did that to me”, or I feel this way because of what happened to me. Can you remember exactly how it occurred, what words were said, why they were said, or how you reacted? How do you feel now about it?

 If you can narrow the event down to just one word or action that took place, what was it? See if you can look at it in a detached way. Stand back and be an observer. How does it look without your button being pushed, without the trigger that set you off? If you can’t do it the first time, try it again later. Meditate for a few minutes and get yourself in a calm, peaceful state and try it again. It may take awhile for you to just see the situation in a detached way. But that is a first step.

 Let’s say that three people witnessed the event that you are considering. If you know the other two well enough, put yourself in their shoes; how do you think they would have responded if it had been them instead of you? Or put yourself in the ‘perpetrator’s’ shoes and see how different things are through his/her eyes. We all have our own way of perceiving the world around us, which leads to disagreements, because each one of us thinks we have the edge on ‘how things are’ or ‘should be.’ You are the creator of your life, as is every one of us the creators of our lives. Therefore, things are as you see them and identify with them. In reality, everything just is.

 The hardest thing for someone to do is see things from someone else’s perspective. While this is not absolutely necessary to not take things personally, it helps. What is really up for you is to move into forgiveness and get on with your life. There is really no one to forgive. An event happened that triggered some buried subconscious experience you had pushed out of your mind (actually into your subconscious), because of the pain you felt at the time. There it lay dormant until the trigger brought it to the surface.

 Forgiveness is about releasing. Since something is being held subconsciously, forgiveness is an action that releases the experience’s remembrance. In most cases the person who caused you to react the way you did had no intention of having that happen. It may have been an innocent remark. We can’t know what is going on in another person’s mind and why that person did what she/he did. What we do is project our own perspective on to the person or event, and think that we are the ones that have it figured out.

 Even if the other person ‘meant’ what he/she said, looking deeper into the situation, we can see that it came from something that was fired from within her/his psyche. What you see in another person is what you don’t like about yourself. So what the other person saw about you was merely a reflection of his/her own dislike about her/himself. I know for most of you reading this the preceding statement seems outlandish, but it is true non the less.

 One way to start the forgiveness process is to make a list of everyone who you feel has offended you in some way, either directly or indirectly. Pick one person who you might consider the easiest to forgive and then go through a process of forgiving that person. Continue doing it until there is no more “charge” around the person or event. Then move on to the next. If you find it easier, you might start with yourself.

 In my class and Inner Peace Revealed book, I have people first do an acceptance exercise, where they first accept themselves. Once that is done, and for some it is difficult, you can move on to accepting other people. Then explore the possibility of forgiving in the same way you just did the acceptance. With a group of people, a great exercise is to have one person stand in the middle of a circle, while the each of the others say “name, I accept you just the way you are.” Then the next person gets in the middle and so on until everyone has been there. It is very transformative.

 We cannot continue to take things personally, holding resentment that eats away at our minds and even our bodies, and expect to live happy lives. I have seen many people who have let long-held resentments go transform their lives. It is like bursting through a wall that has kept you in the darkness away from peace, joy, and happiness, and embracing the light on the other side. Consider the way you would feel if you loved everyone, or at least liked everyone, okay let’s say you just accepted people as they are without judgment.

 How would your life change with deep-seated resentment gone from your mind? I bet you would feel lighter, happier, and free to express the joy that may have long been hidden. Give it a try. I think you will like the results.

 

 

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