It feels like you’ve been kicked in the guts. You can’t believe he said that to you. He must have known how much it would hurt you. How could he do that?
She’s going on at you again. You’ve had enough. She’s the only person who can make you feel so angry. It’s her fault you’re behaving like this.
It’s the blame game.
Someone has hurt you, in one way or another. You take it personally. You blame them for it. And suddenly you find yourself their victim.
This is an uncomfortable place to be – you’re more and more powerless, so all you can do is blame some more. Even when you know that blame doesn’t help, it continues to come up in all sorts of guises.
“Look what I have to put up with.”
“I do so much for him/her and this is what I get in return.”
“When he’s in a bad mood I can’t help being affected by it.”
“When she’s upset it drives me crazy.”
And you’ll find that the situation doesn’t get better. In fact the game can go on for many years, backwards and forwards. Some people are still at it in when they’re on their deathbed.
In my experience there are two simple principles for dealing with anyone who’s annoying or triggers you in any way.
Principle 1: Whatever they say is all about them. Don’t take it personally.
Whatever they say, even if they say something hurtful about or to you, is all about them. It will tell you more about them than it does about you. Look carefully and you’ll see that the person who always blames you for being angry is very angry themselves. The person who keeps telling you that you need to see a therapist is in desperate need of therapy. The person who blames you for being unreliable is also unreliable.
This doesn’t let you off the hook. If you’re angry a lot, then you do need to deal with it. If you’re unreliable it would be good to sort it out. But that’s your problem, not the other person’s.
Principle 2: How you react is all about you. You can choose how to respond.
There’s another side to it, which is the way you react to the other person. Even though what they say is all about them, how you react is all about you. If you get triggered by someone else, that’s entirely your responsibility. No one can make you angry. You can simply choose to respond with anger. No one can make you upset. You choose to react that way. You don’t have to.
Many people don’t like to be told this. They feel justified in their response to the situation. There’s a self righteousness – “He deserves it,” or “I should be upset about what she did,” or “How could they do that to me?” It’s actually masking the victim who’s having bad things “done to you” and it doesn’t make you powerful.
I find people often get these two principles confused. They get hurt by something someone else has said, even when it’s plainly not true and not worth thinking about, let alone taking seriously. And they blame the other person for having made them respond negatively, rather than realising that their reaction is entirely their responsibility and nothing to do with the other person.
It’s especially strong in personal relationships where it can become quite comfortable to play the long-term victim, without ever realising it.
“She’s not attractive to me any more, so I don’t want to make love” – note that he’s saying it’s her fault.
“He’s let me down, so I don’t trust him” – a great way of staying in blame and mistrust for years.
When you exercise the power to choose how you feel, and you allow the other person to say what they want without taking everything as a personal affront, it becomes possible to let go of the old stories that have held you trapped for years.
You let go of blame, being a victim and being powerless and it creates space for both of you to grow.