I saw a quote once that read that each of us is “a universe contained in skin.” What a beautiful and true observation. We are all complicated beings.
Add to that, many of us are what my friend, Erin, refers to as “the walking wounded.” We all have our battle wounds and our triggers, not to mention the enormous load of responsibilities we each personally carry. Sometimes we can’t even get out of our own way. So when we are curt, non-attentive, emotional, etc. toward others it often springs from within. It is usually not a reflection of how we feel about the people with whom we are presently interacting.
We are simply revealing a bit about the present conditions inside our own universe.
Admittedly, it takes self awareness to acknowledge that our feelings are about us and our own present weather patterns – not about others. Once we are aware, we can work toward coming from a place of kindness toward others (rather than taking life out on the innocent!), while still allowing ourselves time and space to feel all the things. It helps to find people who know your good, kind heart, and who won’t take your moodiness personally. They know – this isn’t who you are, it’s just how you feel.
Which leads me to flip this scenario the other way…
If we can agree that how we present ourselves or interact with the world when we are angry, sad, or simply distracted, is actually about how we are feeling within our own universe and isn’t about everyone else, then why is it so hard for us to see it from the other perspective?
If the way we are feeling or behaving isn’t about others, then the way others are feeling or behaving isn’t about us.
If someone else is behaving in an angry, sad, frustrated, distracted way, we often default to assuming we’ve done something wrong. Or, in perhaps an equally troubling default, we make generalizations about that person that may not be true in order to make how we are feeling about the interaction make sense. (Read – he/she must be an asshole, rather than he/she must be going through something difficult right now).
It seems to me that this is a problem with a multilayered solution. The first bit is especially hard for those of us who are sensitive souls. We really have to sheath ourselves in a protective layer to keep from taking in/taking on the mad/bad/sad energy that is coming our way. For an empathetic person, this is a life-long battle.
Second, we need to remember that it most likely isn’t about us. Most people I know are not narcissists, and yet it is so hard to let go of the idea that we are the cause of unpleasant behavior toward us. We’re not.
Lastly, be compassionate. As they say, “Hurt people hurt people.” This is not to say that you must repeatedly expose yourself to someone who is causing you emotional harm. What I mean is, understand that there is a reason that person is behaving the way they are. It probably isn’t because of you (and unfortunately you may not be in a position to help, either). However, it is healing all around to recognize that the storm lies well beneath the surface, within their own universe.
You don’t make the weather there.
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