How many times in your life have you said, “I don’t know why they took it so personally?” How many times do you think someone has said that about you? What about the times when you reflected back and realized that you are probably over-reacted because you “took it personally.”
Today I had the good fortune to be in a great discussion with five other men on what it means to “take it personally.” For the rest of this blog, I will use TIP in lieu of “take, taking or took it personally.” Because of a confidentiality agreement I share with these men, I cannot give you personal information discussed, but we are encouraged to share the lessons learned with others. That is why I am writing article, to share my lessons learned.
So basically, each man was asked to define what TIP was for them. What I learned from this part of the conversation was how the definition or description I was operating from was, in my opinion, the base-line for all the other definitions. My definition for TIP quite simply is when I or we, react to the stimulus of a given situation, circumstance, experience, conversation, etc based on the emotional triggers the stimulus…triggered. Another way of saying it could be, it pushed one of your buttons. Pick one.
The fact that you are reading this means you are a human being ergo you are an emotional creature. Everything we have experienced in our life; family, friends, school, sports, everything – has made an emotional impression on you wether you care to admit it or not. It just has. Deal with it. Now I am not saying that all these experiences has a big huge impact. Some are…neutral , some are nice, some are powerful, and some are like, “WOW, that was huge.” All our experiences adds to our emotional data-base that gets “excited” by the stimulus of the moment.
Another lesson I learned today is how TIP can look differently in each of us. In all descriptions of what it looked like, the common denominators were either a suppression of the emotions in the moment or an eruption of the emotions. It can look angry, sad, deflating, self-righteous, defiant, vindictive, withdrawn, or detached. I can honestly say, I have experienced each of those states as a result of TIP.
What is needed to AVOID TIP?
We all know, TIP takes us out of our sweet spot. It is usually not the place we want to operate from on a regular basis. In fact, many times have we either given or received the advice, “You need to avoid TIP?” So, another thing that was confirmed for me during this conversation was what is needed to avoid TIP. Actually, I identified two key elements. The first is a tool of sorts. A tool is something you can use with skill and intention, at will, to slow the moment down so that you can put the emotional movie on slow mo while you stay in real time. When you can do this, you are now faster than the emotion of the moment. You are like Neo in The Matrix with regard to your own emotions and the stimulus of the moment. There are many tools available to do this. I would suggest having the skill with a few of the tools because counting to ten doesn’t always work.
That brings me to key element number two. In the slowed down moment, you need to manage the emotions that you are experiencing. Typically what I have learned and experienced is we can do three things with our emotions, stuff them, be overcome by them or manage them. 1) Stuffing them. Put them in a box under the bed or in the closet with a lid on them. We have either all done this at one time or another or know someone who does it. Many time we will refer to that person as a “powder keg” that can explode at any time. I believe much of the road rage we hear about comes from people that stuff their emotion and then explode because someone is driving too slow in the left lane. 2) Be overcome by them. Drama queens and macho dudes, same animal with overflowing emotions. Now usually when we use the words overflowing and emotion together it refers to love and adoration, as in “the love was just pouring out of her.” 3) Manage them. I look at the emotion as energy in motion and see it as a flow. It is an ebb and tide, the yin-yang, the shadow and the light. Emotion is the life force of what it means to be human. It is the power behind our creative force within.
So, if stuffing emotion in not a good solution, unless you want to be seen in your car, flipping the bird to a grandmother because you are running late and she is driving like…well..and old lady. And, being overcome with emotion, in many situations, is not good thing because it leads to statement like “I know, I know, I made an emotional decision” or “yeah I kinda lost it a little.” It seems like the solution to not TIP is being able to effectively manage the emotions.
What do you do with the emotions of the moment now that I have used my tool (with skill and intention, at will) because I am going into the red-zone quick? The metaphor that I have used to describe what I do is from the archetype of The Lover. The Lover is that part of you that deals with your emotions. It is not the part that is reacting to them emotionally. The Lover’s duty is to hold the emotions of the moment. I envision he does this with a stainless steel mixing bowl, however, this bowl has the ability to change sizes as needed. In a situation where I am doing some research reading, the bowl can be real small, like the ones chefs use to hold their salt and pepper while cooking. In my vision, that little bowl can get as big as it needs to get in order to hold, not contain, the emotion. Emotions, like water and energy, flow. If water is being held in a bowl it is not uncommon for some to spill out, especially if the bowl is moving. But, if you are careful, only a little will overflow and maybe none if you are very mindfull.
That is my second tool, the ability to hold the emotion, as big as I can, long enough to choose a way of being and my next actions.
So, “taking it personally” is really an emotional reaction of some sort. When we are being re-active, our actions are in response to some other action and therefore instigated or controlled by something or someone other than ourselves. The goal should be to be in action. Being able to pick and choose which action , which way of being best serves us and the situation. This level of conscious choice requires the ability to slow the moment down as well as effectively manage our emotions, in the moment.
Don’t be emotionally lazy. The fact that someone can push one of your buttons, and it is almost impossible to remove the buttons, and get you off your game is the same as being a marionette. Be mindful, be diligent, be disciplined. Make choices that serve you. Usually, reacting emotionally does not.