(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Don’t Take it Personally

It’s all about you.

That’s the way many of us live. Take driving in traffic. How many of us raise our blood pressure unnecessarily because we’re wondering why the drivers in this city are idiots and their sloppy driving is aimed at us, individually?

Or at the office, where a disagreement with the person in the next cubicle seems to be an act of disrespect or hostility?

Or closer to home: your boyfriend goes off the deep end over a stupid little joke you told some friends over drinks. It’s not like you told an embarrassing story about his mother; this was just a silly story! But now he’s upset and you’re feeling misunderstood, attacked and hurt.

We can learn a lot from noticing what pisses us off, and too often we find ourselves feeling miserable because of the way we see ourselves in the world. Why does this always happen to me, we think, or why does life have to be so unfair?

We react this way when we secretly imagine ourselves as being at the center of the universe. This isn’t conceit or arrogance; call it “everyday narcissism” instead. It’s what happens when we’re the point of reference for everything that happens all around us. A little of that is natural; you look out at the world through your own eyes and hear through your very own set of ears. But when we act like everything happens because of us, we’re headed for trouble.

Some spiritual practices unintentionally reinforce everyday narcissism. A friend of mine, very involved with “new thought” spirituality, was driving his car when he signaled for a left turn, stopped to wait for traffic to pass…. and was rear-ended by another car. ” What did I do to cause this reality?” he asked – a legitimate question from his spiritual practice. But isn’t that a little crazy? Doesn’t stuff just happen sometimes?

When good stuff happens, it isn’t always a reward for being good. And bad stuff doesn’t mean that we’re being punished. Sometimes…stuff happens.

Let’s go back to the argument with Mr. Boyfriend. In relationships, we’re often fighting about something other than what we think we’re fighting about. Maybe your attempt at humor didn’t offend anyone else, but in your guy it triggered a response going back to times when his father would embarrass the family after drinking too much. In other words…it wasn’t about you, at least not all of it. If you can be with his reaction – be curious about it, maybe, ask questions and listen for his answers rather than rush to defend myself – you’ve got a much better chance of not wounding yourself or your partner with an argument over something that’s just a matter of perception. Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe it’s not about you at all.

When we realize it’s not all about us, we can avoid personalizing many of the things that annoy or upset us. That takes some of the misery out of the experience. Traffic jams are just everyday hassles, not a poke in the eye from God. Disappointments aren’t judgments about our failures as human beings.

“This may not be about me at all.” Being able to say that to ourselves can help us keep a handle on our emotions and be calmer and healthier.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.