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Taking things personally

We have social interactions with many people on a daily basis. Some of those interactions may be with our nearest and dearest; some may be with our mates, some with work colleagues, and some with people we’ve just met. Some of these people we connect with more easily than with others. Basically, unless you are a Buddhist monk you are always going to be around people.

Some people have a tendency to take things personally not matter what, others let these ‘perceived personal comments/actions’ just run through them. I have always struggled with the former and my husband definitely is the latter.

‘Taking things personally’ was a battle I fought regularly until I learned how to control those thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still do takes things personally, however now I rationalise the thoughts and 90% of them I can think differently about (change the thoughts to more helpful thoughts). So, instead of those negative thoughts of guilt, fear, anger, sadness, hurt consuming me for days at a time I can generally change the focus within minutes or at least within the hour. This is a technique I worked on, someone did not come along with a magic wand and tell me ‘here you go Jo, you will not take things personally any more’. What I had to do was practice and practice and practice the positive thinking, until it is now more often than not a good habit.

As humans we often feel dependent on others for our happiness and our emotional wellbeing. Some of us give a lot and wonder why it isn’t reciprocated or feel disappointed when it isn’t reciprocated. Moreover when we find the people we meet in our lives (especially the people we hold dear) judgemental and critical, even aggressive and abusive towards us we can find ourselves in conflict, caught between the need to have these people in our lives to satisfy our own needs. Sometimes we may end up giving out for peace and to make the other person happy. Have you ever been in this situation? When we do this we give other people power; power over us. We become the victim.

For those of us who suffer from ‘taking things personally’ I wanted to provide you with some of the techniques I have used and some that I found and thought would be useful.

  1. Don’t jump to negative conclusions until you have the facts and try to put yourself in the other persons shoes. Try to take yourself out of the situation and think about why this person might say or do such a thing. The other day I sent an email out to one of the people I am supporting asking how they were – I do this to everyone when they pop into my head. A short while later there was a social media post from the person about ‘people not being in touch for a while then sending an email saying how are you’… it then went into a bit of a scathing rant. Coincidence or not, a few years ago I would have lost sleep over it and the guilt would have consumed me. I then thought about what this person is going through and that they might be suffering at the moment so I left the negative feeling I had just flow through me. The negative feeling went and I sent some loving thoughts to that person.

  2. STOP, take a few breaths. No really, breathing does help. Sometimes, we are in the habit of just thinking negative thoughts (remember habits can be broken) and by just stopping and taking a moment the negative thoughts can be replaced with calm.

  3. What does the relationship mean to you? Think about this before you give another person control over your feelings. I thought about this recently with a work colleague. It was an old boss who was extremely negative and when confronted becomes a bully - nasty words, name calling etc. I only allowed him to control my emotions once, as he isn’t important in my life.

  4. Take yourself away from the situation, give yourself (and the other person) space. If you can go for a walk, do something different to enable you to focus on other things it will help. This will give you the opportunity to react differently to the situation.

  5. Be brave! Ask the person for clarification on what they mean. This is especially true for relationships that are important to you. We always assume that the other person knows what we are thinking. More often than not, they don’t. Ask them what they meant by the comment or action. Explain how it made you feel. Take back control.

  6. Don’t react in kind. What I mean by this, is that it is easy for us to immediately go on the defensive – I am still working on this one :). Stop…. Take a breath and react in a positive way.

  7. Should this person be in your life? Sometimes relationships run their course and if the scales don’t balance you need to ask yourself whether the person is worth your love and positive energy. Some people just love to suck the positive out of people because they feel unhappy. If you try, try and try but the person still leaves you feeling negative and hurt it might be time to ask yourself if this is the end of the road for this relationship.

I know a lot of what I’ve said may seem hard to do, remember that practice does make perfect (practice, practice, practice). Change is hard, however you are worth it.

With Love xxxx

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