Number 20 in a series
How do you react when an important person comes at you with anger and criticism?
Reactions to being psychologically attacked typically are to either attack back, try to explain oneself, or silently brood. Such defensive reactions stem from feeling guilty, wrong and taking an attack personally. They occur when I’ve disconnected from my heart.
When heart-connected I respond entirely differently. Knowing that when others make me wrong it is because they are disconnected from their hearts, I know that:
- Their attack is not a statement about me but is a statement about them.
- I am not responsible for their feelings or behavior.
- Since criticism comes from an internal unhappiness, I respond with compassion and want to know more about the person.
- There might be important points for me to consider in their comments.
In the face of being attacked, staying connected to my heart is one of my greatest challenges. Realizing why I feel guilty, take things personally and get defensive has meant reprogramming false beliefs that go back a long way.
Like all children, I did many innocent things that were judged as bad and wrong by those around me. Such judgments may have included anger, derisive comments, looks of disgust, or just a silent and cold withdrawal of love.
I had no way of knowing that in another home, or in another culture or era, my behavior might not have been made wrong. So in my naiveté, I internalized an inner critic that not only made me wrong when others are upset with me but responsible for their response.
Once I believed that I am responsible for another person’s upsets, it follows that other people are at fault and wrong when I’m upset. One of the favorite pastimes of my inner critic is blaming others for my feelings or behavior, self-righteously saying or thinking things like, “You make me sick”, “You’re really upsetting me” or “You made me do that.”
Although I didn’t come into this world with beliefs that made me wrong, guilty and a critical judge of others, my inner critic became deeply engrained.
(This is not an indictment of anyone. Most of my caregivers did what they thought was best for me. Their intent was certainly not with the thought in mind, “I really want to screw up this kid.” Given their beliefs and fears they were, like all of us, always doing the best they could.)
As a child, to escape carrying the beliefs, guilt and fear that separate me from my heart into adulthood I would have had to either:
- Experience people modeling taking responsibility for their feelings.
- Possessed the wisdom to not take personally the critical judgments of others.
For the former to occur, people would have responded with a contemplative attitude with questions like: “I wonder why I’m getting so upset?”; “What are the fears and beliefs of mine that are getting touched off right now?”; or “I wonder what there is to learn from this upset?” I never remember anything like that happening. Do you?
To not take it personally when another person was upset with me, I would have thought, “It’s not that I’m bad or unlovable, it’s that you’re having trouble loving me right now.” That was the truth then and is always the truth today. I didn’t possess that level of consciousness and I’ve never known a child that does.
Recognizing those false beliefs is like baby steps. Reprogramming them allows me to walk proudly more of the time as I lovingly responding to others and of course, to myself.
For Your Journey
- What would it take for you to hold on to the heart truth that when a person is upset with you that you’re not wrong and responsible for their feelings?
- How would that change your life?
- Share-it-forward. Have a discussion with another person about what you’re learning about feeling guilty and taking responsibility for another person’s feelings and behavior.
First in the Series: From Head to Heart
Next Week: # 21 – Walking the Tightrope of a Balanced Life
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”
Photo: Flickr / KellyB