Yesterday we talked about how you get offended. We talked about how part of the offense happens because you are seeing the things that happen around you in the present in a context that comes from your past.
The big idea for today is that you are the one who is making up what the present event means to you. That is to say, the meaning of what you see now comes from inside you. Since you are the interpreter, you are making up what any event means.
This is your heart on display.
In other words, when the other person does something that you find to be mean, you have interpreted their behavior based on what’s inside your head, and not on what actually happened.
“But wait!” you say. “She actually did yell at me! That’s real, actual, honest disrespect! I deserve to feel disrespected!”
Look, I’m not saying that your feelings don’t make any sense. I’m not saying that you’re making it up that she yelled at you.
You are designed to react to people who yell at you. This generally results in automatic anger. When someone is angry at you and yells at you, it is reasonable and reactionary for you to become angry in return. This can be useful, because defending yourself might be important to your survival. (Looking at your feelings this way is called VALIDATING).
Still, it’s merely instinct. Your instinct pushes you to be angry at a person who is yelling at you. If the person is significantly more powerful than you, your instinct might push you to be afraid instead of angry. Either way, it’s instinct.
It is REACTION.
It isn’t REALITY.
Part of the supercool thing about being a human being is that we have a frontal lobe and therefore we have options beyond being run by instincts. We can learn to choose.
Sure, instinct is great when it comes to survival. But isn’t happiness about more than survival?
I believe that in order for a person to be happy, he or she must eventually get to the point where they feel a sense of mastery about their life: where they can choose how to be the person they want to be in the midst of all of the assaults the world offers.
This is a process. It’s a skill you learn over time and experience. It’s not something that you simply magic into! It requires a lot of failure first. It’s a lifetime quest.
Like many wise people have essentially said, it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s how you react that matters. You can choose how you use what happens to you that matters.
When you get offended by something, ask yourself if you are using what happened to stay stuck in your childhood context? Are you using it to further an unconscious agenda in which you remain a victim to people who yell at you?
Let’s return to the original example to explain what I mean here. You’re offended because She (WoB, the Whore of Babylon, remember?) disrespected you. What was her behavior that was disrespectful? She raised her voice and interrupted what you were saying. You interpreted that to mean she was yelling at you. Since that point when you think of what happened, you focus on how wrong it was that she yelled at you. The specifics that you remember are those things that support your point of view. This is the same thing as you using what happened to stay stuck. Since you are reacting to her just as you would have reacted to your past, you are therefore remaining a victim to your past. You are not choosing what you want — you are letting your instincts and past learning experiences choose for you.