I often find it valuable to take commonplace sayings, or “rules” and, rather than just accept them at face value, “take them for a ride” to see if they ring true.
Most of us have heard the saying, “Others only treat you the way you allow them to.” The hard part about owning this belief is that we have to face the possibility that we are truly responsible for our relationships. While it is my experience that this is true, it is also my experience that most of us would far rather rely on our “default” setting of blame. I recently had a situation that brought this saying into the realm of truth for me.
There was someone in my life who periodically sent me intentionally mean and manipulative text messages. Of course, my “default” response was to blame her for this behavior and the hurt it caused me. So I was traveling to a conference where I was speaking when one of those nasty texts arrived. I read it, felt its effects, and got angry that she was hurting me again—until I suddenly woke up to a startling awareness: I was 4000 miles away from this individual; how is it that she was hurting me? I suddenly saw my cell phone as a target that I wore over my heart and her texts as heat-seeking missiles. I realized that these “missiles” can ONLY find their target if I am wearing the beacon that allows them to do so. I recognized my own responsibility in how I was allowing this person to hurt me—not only by taking in the words she said, but also by allowing them to reach me at all. When I blocked her phone so her words could not longer reach their target, it was a huge relief.
I invite you to take a moment to look at the things that hurt you in your relationships and ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my responsibility in this situation (either in its creation, how you received the pain, your response or participation in it)?
- Is there something in what the other person did or said that needs to be addressed, apologized for, explained, forgiven, or understood? Does the situation need to be withdrawn from?
- What is the story you are telling yourself—or the meaning you are making—about what they other person did or said?
So often I see people upset about what they think someone’s words or behavior meant, rather than over the actual behavior or words. (He didn’t call when he got off work so he must not care about me!) Instead, when we stop to take responsibility for the story, we realize that what the other did or said may not actually equal our belief about it. Regardless of what you discover from this inquiry, allow yourself to look at the whole situation through the lens of responsibility and creativity. This state of mind will allow you to see solutions to your situation that the “blinders of blame” do not allow.
It is also my experience that when we are in our heads we are cut off from our hearts, but that when we are in our hearts, we can use our heads.