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The Other Side of “It’s Not Personal”

Taking things personally

A few weeks ago, we talked about how important it is to consider the possibility that what other people do is not always about you. People are responding to you in accordance to their own past, their own assumptions and their own tendencies. This is helpful to consider because it helps with not taking things so personally.

Today I want to talk about the other side of that: how you feel and act isn’t always about other people, it’s about you.

Yes, other people can trigger a feeling or bring about a response from you This is because whatever other people do or don’t do is received through your own lens of your past experiences, assumptions and tendencies.

Here’s an interesting way to think about this: psychoanalyst Carl Jung proposed that all the people in our dreams, when we dream, are simply representations or aspects of our own self.

Now, think about that in terms of your waking life. People in your life bring about or activate different parts of you, which creates your response.

Let’s say you find yourself getting frustrated with your boss. Turns out, upon reflection, the way interactions feel with your boss actually feel a lot like interactions with your mother.

So, the way you react to your boss has more to do with you and your experiences. In essence, how you react has more to do with you than your boss. Your boss is simply triggering a dynamic or experience.

If you want to get advanced about it…

…you could say that experience is happening to bring up this dynamic in current life so you can learn from it, learn how to do things differently or get a new perspective on why interactions with your mom felt that way.

See how this makes for a different experience? Instead of getting overly focused on your boss and what they are doing or not doing, you can focus on what you can learn about yourself and your relationship with your mom.

Or, let’s say you get really irritated in the car when someone is driving slow and you are trying to get somewhere on time.

Your irritation has to do with you and the fact that you are in a time crunch, not the person in front of you trying to look for an address.

See how these things can happen in the very simple and short interactions as well as in the more complex and ongoing interactions?

Realizing that releases you from blaming yourself or others. It also alleviates a lot of unnecessary emotional pain from thinking that other are responsible for how you feel and what you experience. That leaves other people holding the power, not you.

Instead, your focus can be on reflecting, learning and growing. That’s powerful.

Don Miguel Ruiz has good reason for including “Don’t take anything personally” in his Four Agreements. What others do or don’t do is rarely personal. And, the way you respond or react has relatively little to do with others.

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