Acquired Spontaneity

Thoughts and practices for personal and social transformation

The Nuts and Bolts of Not Taking Things Personally

When someone accuses you, what does it say about their needs? Read More

I have always despised

that: "don't take it personally" If someone is speaking to ME and it is something about ME...it IS personal.

Also when someone prefaces a comment about you like that, it means something is coming that IS personal. People like to use that phrase, so perhaps you won't be upset at what they are going to say.

Regarding the phrase "don't

Regarding the phrase "don't take it personally", I am now realizing that the person making the comment really is trying to express a need. Even on a ridiculous level. I think I have gotten: "that shirt looks really bad, no offense". As mean as it sounds, even that is in a way coming from a place of love. They love me enough to try and stop me from looking like a fool. Haha or maybe they are communicating that they feel jealous about how great my shirt looks compared to theirs. I suppose that for almost everyone, when they make a comment, they have the good intention (for either themselves or others), but they lack the proper way in which to communicate. This is much more extreme of course when there are parents that will abuse their children. I think my dad took my sister's and my actions personally, as in when we didn't act the way he expected us to act, he would lash out. My sister and I grew up taking things personally ourselves. I went to psychotherapy for clinical depression and learned: how to express my needs in a clear way to others, how to interpret people's anger as what they actually need, and how to be open to other's opinions. Sadly my sister still takes things personally in a very extreme way. She will blame my mom saying "you did such and such on purpose to hurt me!". I see how for her it feels like people hurt her on purpose. From experience I know it feels like the whole world is against you, you feel like you are not loved. For me I responded with severe depression. For my sister, she dishes out what the world gives her by being angry and yelling at people. The biggest problem is that she takes my suggestions of going to therapy personally. I remember I did too when my mom suggested it for me, but I went because I told myself that I was messed up (unhealthy and my confidence lowered). In conclusion, taking things personally is a big problem along with the negative connotation that going to therapy has. It is good that there are people trying to help by giving free advice over the web. I believe that everyone should see a psychotherapist. There should be checkups with one just like we have checkups with our doctor. The brain is just as important as the rest of the body! I think we need to give it more attention.

I think it's good advice to

I think it's good advice to tell people to not take EVERYTHING personally, but I think it breeds narcissism to tell people to take NOTHING personally. Here's a statement to consider:

Don't take this personally, but you take things too personally.

That's kind of the message I think the author wants some readers to receive which is in itself a contradiction.

Sometimes people are expressing a need inadequately and they think by making it personal they will gain more understanding. Other times people want to hurt you and intentionally make comments for you to take them personally. Most importantly, sometimes you should take things personally if you care about the other person and how you affect their life. They are expressing a need that is not being met that you have promised to fulfill. That's a healthy way to take things personally. We are interpersonal beings who have to find a balance between our internal and external worlds.

Painful or joyful?

From my research, most of the discussion on the topic of "don't take things personally' is biased toward protecting ourselves from being shaken by the negativity served up by others. But what about compliments, awards and accolades; are these also not to be taken personally? I would logically conclude yes, compliments as well as criticisms should not be taken personally.

I think we need also to be in agreement on the definition or meaning of the word "personally".

Am I only a "witness" to all the phenomena of mind, within myself, and around me? Or am I connected and part of it, because I have perceived it? In my view, there is no duality of mind in me. If there's a voice in my head talking, it is me talking to me; there are not two. If I should witness anything, is it not "I" who have witnessed it? When I record any event with my conscious mind, to me it would seem to be personal.

Instead of categorising mental perception into personal or impersonal, wouldn't I have greater equanimity if I instead resolved not to let any mental phenomena, complimentary or adverse, alter my mental balance unless I so wished it to?

Thank you.

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Miki Kashtan, Ph.D., is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication and serves as its lead facilitator and trainer.

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