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Why We Take Things Personally

By Dr. Margaret Paul
January 18, 2016



When others are mean or rejecting, do you tend to take their behavior personally?



One of the biggest issues that many people struggle with is taking other people's behavior personally. Why do we do this?

Lila asked:

"I would like to hear you speak about the potential reasons one would take other people's behavior personally and react as if another person's behavior is all their own fault. I started studying Inner Bonding in January and realize this is a major theme for me. I logically know other people's behavior has little to nothing to do with me, but my wounded self criticizes me as if I 'said or did the wrong thing,' making me the cause of the other person's behavior. I notice my wounded self tells me if I could somehow find the perfect thing to say or do, this would not happen, and the thing I value would still be there."

Taking things personally has everything to do with the desire of our wounded self to have control over others.

As I've often written about, helplessness over others is one of the hardest feelings we have. Many people would rather feel almost anything else – even shame - rather than feel helpless over others.

When you take things personally and tell yourself that the other person's behavior is your fault, this gives you the illusion of control. If it's your fault, then you can do something about it. If only you say or do the right thing, then the person won't be mean to you, or won't reject you, or won't try to control you. The false belief is that saying or doing the perfect thing takes away the feeling of helplessness - the goal of the wounded self. Even if intellectually you know that you can't control the other person, what you are doing by taking their behavior personally is avoiding your own feeling of helplessness over them.

So, taking things personally is a form of control, not only over the other person, but over your own painful feelings. It's a way to avoid your pain, even though it brings a different pain.

In order to stop taking things personally, three things need to change:

  1. You need to fully accept that you can't control others. You need to accept that others may be mean, rejecting and controlling, no matter how wonderful or perfect you are.
     
  2. You need to learn to lovingly accept and manage the core painful feeling of helplessness over others. You need to learn to move toward the feeling rather than away from it. You need to bring the love, compassion and comfort of Spirit to this very difficult feeling, staying present with it until it is ready to move through you.
     
  3. You need to learn to define your own worth through your connection with your spiritual Guidance so that when others are hurtful, you no longer believe that their behavior has anything to do with you, no matter how much they may blame you for it.

As you practice Inner Bonding and learn to define your intrinsic worth, you no longer make others' approval responsible for your sense of worth and safety. As you learn to lovingly manage your own painful feelings, you no longer need to control others in an effort to get them to change as a way to avoid your pain. Everything changes for you when you learn to deeply value yourself. When you value yourself, it doesn't occur to you to take others' behavior personally.

Others' unloving behavior hurts our heart, but when we learn to lovingly manage our loneliness, heartbreak, grief and helplessness over others, we stop taking others’ behavior personally, and we can manage the hurt without trying to control others by being perfect or saying the right thing.



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