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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Applying "Don't Take Anything Personally" to the Extreme

In Ruiz's simple little masterpiece, " The Four Agreements" he makes an outlandish claim. Within the chapter, "Don't Take Anything Personally", Ruiz makes the claim that this includes somebody sticking a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. This was a polarizing statement for me at first pass and clearly extreme. Or so I thought. What is the logic behind such a claim? Is it true?

Ruiz makes a very clear point in the book. That people are simply living their lives. That they are living with the unconscious belief systems that were installed in them. That we simply don't know what those beliefs are. That others will see the world differently than ourselves. That they have pre-existing opinions and beliefs, just as we all do, which they believe to be true. Other people will act on those opinions and beliefs and that...never has anything to do with us.

That conditioning, those opinions and beliefs, are what allow prostitutes to be prostitutes while many of us could not do that. At the other end, material wealth may equate as success to a wall street banker. He may think nothing of stripping the public of their wealth as long as it is legal- perhaps illegal- as long as he doesn't get caught. A driver speeding through traffic may have decided that it is necessary that he speeds because being late may have a very detrimental impact on him.

We simply don't know what motivates others to do what they do. It's not particularly important either. We cannot possibly know all of those things. But what we can do- and the point of the whole chapter- is to recognize and accept that people are free to live their lives as they see fit.
But where Ruiz stops short, and to expand this just a bit, is that when we take things personally- we make the assumption that we are victims. Agreement three, "Don't Make Assumptions" applies here as well.

If we think our erratic driver's behavior endangered us, aren't we entitled to be victims? If our spouse cheats on us, aren't we victims? Surely we can find people to agree that we have been victimized, can't we? Of course we can. But that won't make us well. In fact, it is likely to emotionally mire us in even further.

Therefore our answer has to be no. That driver and that cheating spouse were making decisions based on beliefs that the behavior they were engaged in was necessary, rational, or justifiable. Those decisions do not have a thing to do with us. And if we allow ourselves to be feel victimized, we wallow in an emotional tar pit that consumes us. We cannot move emotionally forward. Our day is ruined because a driver was late for an appointment. Or in the case of a cheating spouse, I have seen "victim" spouses consumed with decades of hatred. Incapable of moving on. They cannot accept that their cheating spouse was simply living his or her life. That the decision to cheat had absolutely nothing to do with them.

If you find yourself wallowing in self pity, looking for people to agree with you that you were a "victim", you will find them. The time you spend languishing as a victim will be additional lost time. You will be mired in that tar pit of negative emotions, consumed with pity, anger, perhaps hatred while all the time...the other party will just continue living their lives. Oblivious, perhaps angering you even more at the apathy you suppose they display. Perhaps they will even generate a second round of "victimization" within you or perhaps you might ponder or conduct a revengeful counter attack.

This insanity is completely avoidable. We simply cannot achieve any level of spirituality until we can take "Don't Take Anything Personally" to the extreme. That people are simply living their lives and that never has anything to do with us. We also can't let the actions of others turn us into self pitying or angry souls. There is simply no upside, absolutely nothing to gain, when we can't practice acceptance of this simple agreement.

Does the logic make sense? Yes, of course it does. Is it true? It doesn't really matter. When we adopt this agreement, the logic becomes so powerful that we no longer feel animosity, anger, or hatred. We let people be just as sane or insane as they want to be. The actions of others have little or no negative impact on us. We practice acceptance and we get over it quickly. No need for decades of anger and frustration- no ruined days simply because someone roared up along side of us and cut us off as they weaved in and out of traffic to some undisclosed location. It works.

"Don't Take Anything Personally" is the virtual cornerstone of emotional freedom. It is essential and it is essential that it be practiced to the extreme. In fact, it is when those extreme things happen- when we feel desperate and alone- that we need this principle the most. It allows us to endure, heal quickly, and thrive.

1 comment:

  1. PERFECTLY true (for me, thanks mostly in part to you)! I remember the day and the moment when you opened up my perceptions in a very important way when you suggested to me that perhaps "betrayal" existed only within my perceptions. Noting really IS personal! This perception totally takes me to the very real possibility that "misery is optional". Thank you. :-)