Taking It Personally
When we get mad at one another for disagreeing, what are we really mad about? We confuse our beliefs for part of who we are, we feel personally attacked when someone dismantles, argues against, dislikes them. That need to control is ironic; we often like a person for the same reason we grow to decide we dislike them: You’re so independent becomes you’re so stubborn. You’re so outspoken, unafraid to say how you really feel becomes you’re rude and your opinions are overbearing, hypercritical. As the dynamic in any relationship changes, so do our perceptions of another person’s qualities, behavioral patterns, quirks and preferences. Often failing to look back and examine the steps we took which slowly modified our feelings and attitudes over time, we wind up in a seemingly new and faraway place, wondering how we got there, wondering what happened.
Taking things less personally is a practice which requires constant and consistent maintenance. It’s hard to truly fall into this way of doing things because we have a natural tendency to defend ourselves, and in our defensive processes we begin to confuse what is me and what is a belief, an opinion, a thing I think and observe but is not me, will not hurt me to let go or modify. Also ironically, the adverse is true.
Resisting the reflexive action of defensiveness and opening ourselves to truly hear what another person is saying is conducive to growth; openness is always conducive to growth. Clinging, huddling-over, inflexibility, rigidity are all pathways to stagnation; that is, nowhere. Whether or not we forfeit our beliefs (and we must remind ourselves that no one can force those away from us, so there is really no reason to not relax), any dynamic is greatly altered by allowing another person room to maintain their beliefs, to be who they are being in that moment. A surprising and surprisingly quick way to disarm tension is to react with kindness and patience, apart from the reactionary response my mind may be shouting at me to deliver (That wasn’t fair, how could you say that, I can’t believe you think, this was rude because…).
I can think of many times I have lashed out, responded emotionally and without pause. Of the times I have said something brash, or rude, or hurtful, or even simply deceitfully not representative of my true, soft feelings beneath, I usually always feel sorry afterwards. I cannot think of a single time I’ve felt sorry or remorseful after taking the time and effort to respond with compassion, understanding and a little bit of kindness.