Do you snap at your mother even though you promised yourself you’d keep your cool?
The holidays can bring us together in joy and companionship, as much as they can remind us why we live four hours away or in another state.
A Happiness Habit I especially like to bring to the forefront, and hang directly onto my tool belt, at this time of year, are the wise words of Don Miguel Ruiz:
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
Stuff Happens and Suffering is Optional.
Suffering lies in our interpretation of what someone said. Often, at the heart of our interpretation is our willingness to apply something someone said or did as a truth about ourselves. It usually is the very thing we’d prefer to keep hidden, that part of ourselves we find hard to love. Consequently, this vulnerable aspect of ourselves feels like it is under attack and it is easy to become defensive.
As much as I adore and admire my sister, when the two of us are together, if not careful, we can rub each other the wrong way. For many years my sister and I played the “take it personally” game – so professionally we were in the pro-leagues. She’d interpret every suggestion I made as slights against the way she was raising her children. In turn, I took her rebuffs to my suggestions as “dismissive”. The part of me struggling with being childless was quick to feel inferior, hurt, dismissed. The parts of ourselves, which felt inadequate, quickly became inflamed when together.
It was liberating to realize nothing others do or say is because of me and simply a projection of their own reality, their own dream.
Truly, what others say or do is a direct result of things like: their own life experience; their strengths and unique talents; their own insecurities; and their own areas of work and growth.
So, your super-organized, productivity freak of a sister-in-law who, by simply breathing, makes you feel inadequate and disorganized? Well, it is time to let her words and actions go.
Here are a several ways I’ve found to “let go” and assist me in getting to an empowered state of mind and spirit:
Three Steps to Living Free:
Get Curious. Curiosity is the first line of defense against getting angry and defensive. Start by asking some questions, like: What is her reality? What life experiences, strengths and talents make this (behavior or opinion) so for her? What does he really want? What is his dream?
After a really beautiful heart-to-heart, which actually, involved some angry yelling, I realized my sister’s dream was to be a good mother and receive recognition for the job she was doing. As I got curious about my own interpretation I was able to realize I could join the conversation by being affirming.
Check for Listening Filters: We often listen defensively, rising from the need to protect ourselves. If we are struggling with our own perceptions of self-worth, and what someone says unfortunately, mirrors what we’ve been thinking, deep down, it is easy to feel they went out of their way to make us feel less than.
I know for myself, my listening filter has often been tuned to ways I am being excluded from the conversation since I don’t have children. I now know I may want to check my listening filter if I am feeling hurt, sad, excluded. Now, I change the filter and pay attention instead to hearing how loved and connected I am.
Be Lovingkindness. Asking “what would love do?” or asking “who would love be?” are two great questions to start us down the path towards building our immunity to what others say or do. At the root of LovingKindness is the recognition we all want to be safe, happy and healthy, and feel love and connection.
Consider this for the holiday season: Instead of hiding behind perceived slights and building defensive fortresses, what if you stepped into an airy, open-hearted space of curiosity and love; recognizing no harm is meant: He, she, they are simply operating from their own reality and dreams.