Who among us has not had hurt feelings? We’ve all felt the sting of what felt like a thoughtless remark or unwarranted criticism—or even sometimes criticism that was justified.
We can even be affected by the response of a stranger, a brusque clerk at the grocery store or an impatient voice on the telephone. Often such an event can seem to lower our spirits and set-off a string of insecure thinking and even anger.
It’s interesting, I think, that for most of us our responses change. Sometimes we do feel more resilient and philosophical about life. We can feel empathy for another’s bad mood or critical stance and even see the humour in it.
There are other times when we feel more vulnerable to these circumstances than normal. The difference is, when we feel hurt or stung by life it means that we’re taking life personally.
There are so many factors at work here. If we’re not taking good care of our physical well-being; that’s if we aren’t getting enough rest, not eating properly or if we’ve taken on too many tasks. Our mood is lowered, our thinking spirals down and we seem to be more vulnerable and reactive to the world around us.
For some people, it becomes their habit to be easily triggered by others. This is a painful way to experience life and one that most of us would like to avoid as much as possible.
There’s no question that “life happens.” The good news is, our experience of every event is totally dependent on our state of mind. In other words how we think about an event is how we experience it.
When we feel calmer and more resilient, we’re using our innate capacity to step back from our painful reactions and see them for what they are—an indication that we’re taking our thinking and the thinking of others too seriously.
Now we know that it’s within our capability to live, what one colleague calls, a more Teflon life. What he means by this is we have the potential to let the “slings and arrows” slide off us and not stick. When we feel upset or urgent, it’s a sure sign we’re fly-paper not Teflon. We’re being gripped by a thought.
It may be an old habit, one we learned from our family of origin or an early experience. It may be an insecure thought that we’ve carried around for a long time. But it’s never too late to change our perception. We can do that by recognizing what we seem bothered by.
As we become more aware of our habits we’re able to catch our reactions sooner, recognize the thinking behind them and choose. We need not be limited by any thinking that doesn’t serve us.
In my family of origin, a person’s tone of voice was very important. My parents were very reactive to how something was said, as much as what was said, and so I lived as if that were important to me.
What that did, was make my experience dependent on someone else’s way of speaking. If someone was harsh or clipped or loud in their speech I felt stung. What a waste of time and energy. I was taking someone else’s habit personally. How freeing to know that what another says, or how they say it, has nothing to do with me unless I make it.
Taking life personally sets us up to be at the whim of every comment, every look and every opinion. It denies our birthright to live from a place of wisdom and compassion. Instead it creates an experience of reactivity and pain.
Taking life less personally and our thinking less seriously takes the “ouch” out of life and opens up the potential for choices we never dreamed of.