Are you Taking Things too Personally?

There are nogood‘ or ‘badpeople. Some are a little better or a little worse but all are activated more by misunderstanding than malice. A blindness to what is going on in each other’s hearts. Stanley sees Blanche not as a desperate, driven creature backed into a last corner to make a last desperate stand – but as a calculating bitch with ’round heels’…. Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see each other in life.”–Tennessee Williams

There are very few people in this world who are purely evil or completely selfless do-gooders who sacrifice everything for the sake of the well being of others.  Things are always complex and there are always shades of gray when it comes to dealing with human beings.  When friendships or relationships that have lasted years end, people tend to focus on either only the good or only the bad aspects.  Sometimes in moments of anger, it is helpful to reflect on the good things or the good deeds that a person who has wronged or insulted you may have done. Surely with most people it wasn’t all bad or good. On the flipside,  When you’re dwelling on the past and romanticizing all the good things about a person who is no longer in your life, remember that there were some not-so-nice moments as well. This way of thinking can also apply to people who are currently in your life when conflict may arise: co-workers, spouses, family members, friends, etc.

It’s also important to remember that you never really know what’s going on in someone’s life.  Many times people are secretive about all the burdens they are carrying on a day to day basis. Sometimes a person’s less than ideal childhood seriously impacts the way they deal with people based on defense mechanisms they may learned to develop over the years.  A teacher of mine used to use the example of someone cutting you off while driving as a way to think about how little we really know about others. The teacher posed the question to the class: as follows: ”What if that person just came from the hospital after visiting a sick relative? Would we be as angry at them for cutting us off?”  While there are no excuses for bad behavior, it’s also important to recognize that most things we view as personal attacks hardly ever are.  Take a couple minutes to let it go and assure yourself that you really don’t know what kind of day that person had or what kind of traumas they’ve experienced in their lives.  This is also an exercise in empathy. By putting ourselves in another’s shoes, we can often understand a bit better where they are coming from or why they do what they do.  It takes the pressure off of us when we don’t take things so personally — at work, at home and in social settings.