Taking it personally

personally One of the issues that folks come into my practice with, and suffer from, is taking things personally, maybe even when those things are not really personal to them. My clients don’t necessarily call it that; sometimes they call it “having trouble with interpersonal relationships”. Something happens at work and someone says something hurtful to someone else. What happens next depends on how the receiver received the speaker’s comment. If s/he took it personally, it is likely that s/he will experience hurt. If, however, the person was able to take it more compassionately (for himself and for the other) and think perhaps, that the comment was the speaker’s opinion (and “your sayin’ so, don’t make it so!”), it is likely that the effect may be quite different.
Or perhaps, one can receive that hurtful comment thinking about what made the other person say it, another compassionate stance that is likely to have a different effect than hurt. Most of the time, when you come right down to it, a hurtful comment is more about what is going on with the speaker than the receiver, and many times the message is received just because the receiver in proximity to whatever is going on with the speaker.

But what if it is something that just doesn’t go the way one hoped, as opposed to a hurtful comment? A friend said to me recently about a disappointing situation that was occurring, “It sounds like that carries some hurt for you”. I thought for a moment, poked around in my psyche and determined that it did not, although certainly it could have. Over the course of the next few hours, I realised that I had not taken the disappointing situation personally and therefore was not hurt; i was annoyed! If one is personally invested, that is, taking it personally, then that can be a potential source of hurt. If, however, the person is concerned about that thing, but not personally identifying with it, it opens the potential for a more diffused (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)-speak, there) response, one that might register irritation, disappointment and/or anger, emotions that may be more easily dissipated.

So next time someone says something hurtful to you or you are disappointed in the outcome of some event, you might want to think about how you want to receive it and whether you might want to try on some empathy, toward yourself and the other person. It really might not be all about you!

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