It feels good when we don’t take things personally in relationships. We enjoy the feelings of inner freedom and goodwill when we feel compassion for our struggling partners when their behavior misses the mark. We enjoy the feelings of internal stability when we are undisturbed by our partners' emotional dysregulation and feel internally stable. This feels good, and it feels bad when we take things personally. We can misinterpret the bad feelings to mean something is wrong with us, or we are doing things wrong. We can judge ourselves as not good enough when we take our partner’s behavior personally, but we don’t have a choice as to whether or not we take something personally. If I did, I would never take anything personally and never feel bad again. However, not only is this not possible, but it would also be a disservice.
Bad feelings, or more accurately stated, feelings we judge as bad, are healthy. They are an indicator to let us know we are caught up in misunderstandings and limiting beliefs. This does not mean anything about us. It has nothing to do with our self-worth or if we are loveable, and even though they aren’t based on truth, they feel real.
The real feelings of feeling bad are a normal part of the human experience that none of us escape from, and when we feel bad, there is an opportunity for healing the misunderstandings that result in the bad feelings. This is the gift of taking things personally.
When we take our partner’s or another person’s unkind behavior personally, the gift is that we are open to our healing. This doesn’t condone the other person’s behavior. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have boundaries or even leave a relationship, but the gift in the experience of taking someone’s behavior personally and feeling hurt is that our interpretation of the person’s behavior reveals to us the suffering caused by our misunderstandings. Having our suffering brought into our conscious awareness means we can be with ourselves in kind and loving ways that allow healing. Being with the experience of our suffering and accepting our experience and ourselves allows transformation to unfold.
This is how trauma heals. Trauma heals when our awareness of who we are grows larger than our experience of pain. Each time the pain of our misunderstandings revisits us, we can hold our pain with compassion and empathy. Each time we do this, we understand experientially that we are more resilient than the pain caused by the misunderstandings we made up about ourselves. Each time our emotional suffering revisits us, we have an opportunity to know who we are beyond our misunderstandings and limiting beliefs about ourselves. We may not feel the unconditional love that is our essence and lies within each of us at the time of emotional upset but having the courage to be with our experience is the balm we need when we are suffering. It is also the solution that dissolves misunderstandings so the truth of who we are can be revealed more fully.
There is no rushing this process. There is no pressure to be further ahead than we are with our capacity to be present with our emotional experience, but it is helpful to understand the value in being with our experience, in opening to our suffering, and in softening around our pain.
Suffering is the result of forgetting who we are. That is the source. It does not come from what our partner does or doesn’t do. What they do or don’t say. Again, I have to emphasize; I am not condoning unkind behavior. But understanding the source of emotional suffering results from the pain of forgetting who we are and feeling separate from that source of love within that lets us know we are loveable and good enough means we know what direction to look in when we are suffering. Our partner’s behavior may be the evidence we use to draw these conclusions about ourselves, but forgetting that we are worthy and loveable exactly as we are is the real source of the pain. Our partner can’t fix that, but us taking their behavior personally, helps us to see where we are forgetting. It reveals to us our blind spot. Not so we can fix it, but we can love ourselves exactly as we are.
When we take things personally, the habit is typically to find ourselves in judgment toward the person and ourselves. This habit is a decoy. It compels us to look for change in others or ourselves to feel better. It is the metaphorical carrot in front of the donkey that the donkey never gets to eat. It is the allure of the idea that I will be happy when… It is the seduction of the grass looking greener over there. This is exhausting and unsatisfying and does nothing to heal the experience of trauma within ourselves.
Instead, when we take things personally, we can remain present with our experience and not divert our attention through blame or judgment. We can meet ourselves and be open to our feelings. We can welcome what is arising. We can allow the health of our experience to move through us. Feeling separate from the love of who we are is painful, but it is temporary. The feelings will come and go, and by staying with ourselves, when the feelings have subsided, we usually have a deeper sense of who we are beyond our transitory felt experience. This is the gift. Forgetting who we are is part of remembering who we are. They go together.
I still experience suffering and forget that I am loveable and whole, but knowing the suffering comes from within myself is liberating. Even though I may wallow in my suffering, I have the freedom that comes with knowing that what arises within me is an invitation to meet myself with love and compassion for my healing. What arises within me when I am suffering are my misunderstandings and limiting painful beliefs. This is a gift when this happens. It is life offering me the opportunity to heal by experiencing the misunderstandings I made up in my past.
And even though I can’t always see someone’s psychological innocence, I know when I can’t it is my issue, not theirs.
We are only ever emotionally impacted by our thoughts, even in the face of hurtful behavior. This does not mean we invite or condone hurtful behavior. It doesn’t mean we don’t set boundaries that take care of ourselves. It doesn’t mean we intentionally put ourselves in harm's way, but life has a way of giving us experiences to support our healing which is our awakening.
Emotions work one way. They come from the inside of us and let us know what we believe. Recognizing this opens us up to healing. Blaming other people for our very healthy emotional experience creates disempowerment and feelings of victimization.
Remembering there is only one source of emotional suffering, the feeling of being disconnected from the love of our Self based on our mistaken thinking, is empowering because it points us to what matters most when we feel that way – love. We can all remember to be kind to ourselves when we feel separate from our essential nature. We can all learn to ignore the vile thinking that proliferates when we feel separate and not good enough. We can all open to our experience, especially during the times when we are suffering the most. And we can understand that taking things personally and suffering are normal, healthy experiences on the learning curve of waking up to who we are.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.