It happens to all of us at one time or another. There is a misunderstanding. Feelings are hurt. Someone is offended. Defensiveness ensues. Tension is in the air. We may wonder what in the world happened.
It happened to me last week. I asked a question that was misunderstood. Someone felt hurt and angry. I, in turn, felt terribly defensive.
I wondered why it bothered me so much. It was all an innocent misunderstanding and yet I went down the rabbit hole of stressful, fearful thinking.
I realized that my ego took a hit, or so I told myself. I had to admit to myself that I have this carefully crafted persona that I desperately want to protect. I want people to see me in a certain way. I want to be seen as kind and good. My reaction only proved how very attached I am to the story that I must control what others think of me. No wonder I got so stressed. I’m attached to an impossible story.
I felt terribly helpless and powerless when my attempts to explain myself seemed to be disregarded. Maybe they were disregarded, maybe they weren’t. Maybe I just created a whole drama in my mind. I’m good at that.
I can look back on my life and see countless times when I created drama in my mind. I bought into those dramas hook, line, and sinker. They seemed so real to me. I suffered immensely. Looking back, I can see that they weren’t real. The drama was created when I bought into my stressful, fearful thinking.
We create our experiences via our thinking. I can see it so clearly now. Something happens, I create a story about it, and the story becomes my felt reality. It often has little to do with what’s actually happening. Pema Chodron says, “It’s not life that causes suffering, it’s our story about life—our interpretation—that causes so much distress.”
Why do I have this attachment to people seeing me as kind and good? I suppose I worry that I’ll be unloved and rejected if they don't. I forget that those are simply fear-thoughts that I have jumped aboard. They are old, baseless fears. The truth is, I have been unkind. I have lacked integrity. I have been unfair. There have been many folks who have loved and accepted me during those times despite it all.
Pema goes on to say, “We are all a mixture of aggression and loving-kindness, hard-heartedness and tender open-heartedness, small-mindedness and forgiving open mind. We are not a fixed, predictable, static identity that anyone can point to and say, ‘You are always like this. You are always the same. Life’s energy is never static. It is as shifting, fluid, changing as the weather. Sometimes we like how we’re feeling, sometimes we don’t. Then we like it again. Then we don’t. Happy and sad, comfortable and uncomfortable alternate continually. This is how it is for everyone.”
I feel a release and softening as I read Pema’s words. Thoughts and feelings come and go. Being human means not having a static identity. I am human. Misunderstandings are human. They don’t have to be a big deal. I don’t have to take it all so very personally and seriously. Freedom is only a thought away.
When we understand that we create our lives via our thinking and we each have different thoughts thus different reactions and realities, we can feel a sense of freedom and relief. We can find compassion for others and ourselves more easily. We no longer have to feel the victim, analyze others or ourselves to death, or try to explain ourselves over and over again. We can relax a bit and take it all less personally and less seriously. As we do, we become clearer, more grounded, and capable of responding in a kind and authentic way.
Don Miguel Ruiz says, "Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.”
We don’t have to be afraid of our human experience, or others' experience. We can let the stressful fear-thoughts move along. We can return to the clear sky of our true essence which can never be harmed.
There is no drama here, only the drama in my own mind. What a relief.
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