Stop Taking Things Personally
It’s Not Personal
The ego is in the habit of taking everything personally because it over-identifies with everything it perceives, and in doing so it confuses its sense of self with the “object” it is perceiving.
Emotions are the most polarised aspect of our being; i.e. they carry the most charge. So the more emotion we experience, the more difficult it is to keep things in perspective and remain objective. The more emotion that accompanies an experience the more we identify with it and the more we take it personally.
Our thoughts and emotions feel very personal and very unique to us, but actually we all have similar patterns and programming (its human nature), so they aren’t really that personal or unique. We are all living in the same world, having similar experiences and reacting in similar ways. So is life really that personal? From an objective point of view it all seems pretty generic and universal.
How to Become More Objective
We can learn to stop taking things personally by expanding our outlook and seeing life as an integrated universal process, rather than a purely personal experience. Life is a vast, impersonal, universal process that doesn’t belong to any one individual. Life happens and we are simply someone experiencing it. Seeing life from this impersonal viewpoint gives us the space and perspective that can help us to avoid getting too caught up in personal issues.
The more we can de-personalise our experiences, the more we will dis-identify with our ego. A simple way to do this is to not think “I am happy” (or sad or angry or whatever), but to simply notice “I am experiencing happiness”. By not identifying with the emotion we are not confusing our sense of self with it. By simply noticing that we are experiencing an emotion, our experience is less personal and our sense of self remains clear. Our experience doesn’t change, but our relationship to the experience changes radically. We change our perspective from that of the “owner” of our experience (ego-self) to the “witness” of experience (true-Self).
When we cultivate a more accepting relationship with our experiences (i.e. they become less personal), we also find that we are better able to cultivate more accepting relationships with other people.
Other Ways to Stop Taking Things Personally
- Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes: Try to understand things from their perspective. They may feel they have a valid reason to be annoyed? They may be critical to everyone, not just you? Perhaps they weren’t taught good manners as a child? Putting your awareness on the other person, moves it away from your reactive ego, so you are less likely to react.
- Don’t Make Assumptions or Jump to Conclusions: Other people’s behaviour is more about them than it is about you, so don’t assume their behaviour is personally directed at you. They may have anger issues? You may remind of them of someone else and they may be projecting that relationship onto you? It is almost always about them – their issues, their needs and their desire to control things.
- Get to Know Yourself: Be interested in your thoughts, emotions and behaviours, because the more you know about yourself the less you need to rely on interactions with others to know who you are.
- Learn about the Enneagram: When you know the Enneagram you know that most behaviours aren’t personal – they are very generic – products of people’s personality type. When you know someone’s Enneagram Type you can learn to understand the fears, insecurities and false beliefs that underlie and motivate their behaviours, and this understanding cultivates compassion for them (as opposed to resentment or hatred).
- Maintain Bodily Awareness: When you have an inner sense of your own “presence”, you are less concerned with external matters, so they lose their power of influence over you.
Acknowledge When You Do React
As stated previously, another person’s behaviour “is almost always about them”, and that is not your responsibility. But when you react, that is your responsibility. So notice when it happens, and inquire into why it happens. Every time you react is an opportunity to shed some light on a subconscious pattern within you. Focusing and Self Inquiry are the most effective methods, but you could simply discuss it with a friend, not to get their support or sympathy, but to get a more objective view of the situation.