Rural Roots August 24, 2003
There are times when it is important to take things personally. When someone is sharing how they feel about you, or about your behaviour, and does so in a non-abusive way, it is important to take it personally.
It is important to be open to learn and to accept comments and feelings, which at times you may not find pleasant. Otherwise you won't learn anything about yourself and your behavior.
There are times, however, when taking things personally does not help you cope well with life, and can create problems in your relationships with others.
The trick in successful living is to avoid slipping into taking things personally, when they aren't intended to be that way. The following example might help.
Imagine you are walking, either in a city, or out in the woods, and a pigeon or a raven, flying overhead you, has the need to "relieve itself", the results of which lands squarely on the top of your head.
Your first instinctual reaction might be to think, "That bird had it in for me", especially if you didn't happen to be wearing a hat.
But, hopefully, you will have a quick conversation with yourself, and come up with the following conclusions:
The bird didn't have it in for me and doesn't even know who I am.
Even if that were the case, birds don't have the sophisticated homing devices used by the military to try to get their missiles to land in the right places, and couldn't have achieved such precision, even if they had been trying.
I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I don't need to take this event as a personal attack on me.
The above example is intentionally absurd. Yet, should that unfortunately event happen to them, how many people will first raise their fist and shout at the bird as if it did it on purpose? And, what would such action achieve for them? Perhaps a bit of relief of their frustration, and also likely a hearty laugh from any friends who are along with them.
Because it happened to you, they can laugh at it. They might not find it as easy if it had happened to them.
People make mistakes, and some of their mistakes may happen to drop on us or affect us. If we assume they did it on purpose, however, we increase the intensity of our anger and frustration, and we will likely alienate ourselves from others around us, who could be support to us.
It's hard to control that instinct. Because of our cultural conditioning, whenever something goes wrong, we want to find someone to blame for it. Usually, any other person, other than ourselves.
Blaming others is an effective way to avoid having to look at ourselves, our reactions to the event, and perhaps ways we could have avoided such a problem. We might have no control over a bird. But we can decide whether of not to wear a hat when birds are flying about!
When the bird poops on you, it isn't your fault. You just happened to be where gravity caused the deposit to drop. Wipe it off and keep on living. Do the same in response to other people's behaviour. Instead of taking the behaviour personally, and then getting angry, and then likely doing something inappropriate or even stupid, pause when something happens. Look at the situation objectively.
Remember that we live in a world where we can't always control what happens to us.
If you do this, you'll save a lot of energy, and you will pay less attention to "birds" that happen to be flying around you.