Don't take it personally!


One of my dearest colleagues and friends shared a blog of Rick Hanson with me this week. As we all need a reminder sometimes, I decided to share it with you:

There is an updated parable from the ancient Taoist teacher, Chuang-Tzu: imagine you are floating in a canoe on a slow river, having a Sunday picnic. Suddenly there is a loud thump, and your canoe rolls over. You come up sputtering, and see that someone has snuck up, flipped over your canoe, and is laughing at you. How do you feel?

OK. Now imagine the exact same situation again: the picnic in a canoe, loud thump, dumped into the river, coming up sputtering, and what do you see?
A large log has drifted downstream and bumped into your canoe. This time, how do you feel?

The facts are the same in each case: cold and wet, picnic ruined. But when you feel personally picked on, everything feels worse. The thing is, most of what bumps into us in life is like an impersonal log put in motion by 10,000 causes upstream. Say a friend is surprisingly critical toward you. It hurts and you need to address the situation. But also consider what may have caused that person to bump into you, such as: misinterpretations, health problems, other worries, events from the larger context; and causes back upstream in time, like how his or her parents were raised.

Recognize the humble yet also wonderful truth: most of the time, we are bit players in other people’s dramas. When you do this, you naturally get calmer, put the situation in context, and don’t get so caught up in “me-myself-and-I”. Then you feel better, plus more clear-headed about what to do.