Ask Parvati 37: Feeling Under Attack – Part 2: The Big Picture/ It's Not Personal
(Continued from “The Power of Patience“)
We tend to take people’s bad moods, emotional reactions, judgment, criticism and attacks personally. Of course, toxic energy directed towards us hurts. But it does not have to.There is tremendous power in not taking things personally. In doing so, we peel away the dramatic story that masks the moment to reveal deeper truths. When we let go of taking things personally, we ultimately see that everyone is wounded, everyone needs love and everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment.
Hurtful exchange and nasty comments usually happen so quick, that we hardly know what really has gone on. When we practice patience and take a bit of breathing room from a volatile situation, we can slow down the tape of our reactive mind and see the subtler pathway of our knee-jerk reactions. We can move our awareness inward and ask ourselves, “What buttons of mine did this person push? What did I feel? Why did I react like that? What about this did I find hurtful? Is there something else I could see that am not seeing?”
It is my belief that most people are just trying to get through their day with, likely, a whole lot of mental fog, swirling unhappiness and unresolved desires. When we are unconscious, we are very selfish beings, consumed with our own wants and needs that tend to eclipse our ability to perceive the happenings in our environment and the needs of others. To become sensitive to the world beyond our ego, and the needs of others, is a skill that is cultivated through spiritual awakening. If we were all more sensitive to the needs of others, well, our world would not quite be in the mess it is in!
That being said, I believe it is a rare thing that someone is deliberately malicious. There is a lot of unconscious malice, but deliberate hurtfulness requires a certain mental instability or insanity that is not, thankfully, that common.
This week, I had an experience that reminded me to not take things personally. Soon after I woke up and before I started my morning meditation practice, I took a peek at my emails. I rarely do that as I prefer to keep my mind untouched by external things and dive directly into the deeper space of still thoughts. But for some reason, that day, I did. I had received an angry email from an acquaintance, a spiritually dedicated practitioner who was also a fan of my blogs. She had accused me of stealing one of her social media postings and writing a blog entry about it. Her words were sharp and hurtful, accusing me of being unspiritual and dishonest. I was shocked. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. I had not even seen any of her social media posts recently.
I went to my morning meditation practice, admittedly, a bit shaken. As my mind settled, I felt it best to simply reply to her and say that I had no idea what she was talking about. After my sit, with the calm of my practice still fresh, I went to my computer with a calm and honest reply. My message was sent only with the intention to clarify any possible confusion and assumption. However, what came back were further irrational accusations and a request that I stop the “childishness” and admit my fault. Again, I had no idea what this person was going on about.
For whatever reason, one that only that person can know, my blog clearly had pushed one of her buttons and she was reacting. She had made me the source of her injury, rather than owning her own reactivity and inner wounds. I did what I could by voicing my truth. Her decision to not believe me was entirely her own, something over which I had absolutely no control.
With hindsight, I now feel a sense of inward, open warmth at the folly of the human mind, the depths of our attachments that make coiled ropes look like snakes so that we go running. I now also chuckle at how I had best add a disclaimer to all my blog entries: “All characters, places and events appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” LOL
What I have come to conclude is that every drama has a hero and antagonist. It is what makes dramatic stories move forward in plot. If we wish to be free of life’s dramas, we must free ourselves from seeing ourselves as the hero and others as villains; or ourselves as victims seeking a hero.
So when you next meet an antagonist in life’s drama, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions to avoid taking their misery personally. Is it possible, for example, that the supervisor who got angry at you during your presentation had an argument with his wife that morning? He perhaps left the house fuming and took it out on the next available person: you. Who knows what his reasons were for acting hurtfully or why he did what he did. It however has nothing to do with you. He may need to communicate something which may or may not have validity, but his choice to do so in a way that causes pain is a choice he made that reflects the person he is. His choices do not reflect who you are.
I have quoted this before, which I feel sums up life relationships so beautiful: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
Everyone, like you, carries wounds around, deep childhood hurts that lay gaping until we inadvertently pour our own salty tears into them. We mean no harm. We bump into each other like diamonds in the rough, polished by life unfolding. It is healthy to try to see the good in others, that is, to see that each person is doing the best they can with the skills they have at this time. When we avoid taking things personally and rest in the bigger picture, our hearts will flower into the fullness of compassion and we will no longer hurt or feel hurt by our ignorance or the ignorance in others.
(Continued tomorrow with “Understanding and Compassion“)