The Second Agreement

8 Jul

Hello – Kasi here again. Everybody else is pretty busy so I’ll keep going with my series on The Four Agreements–if that’s okay.

The second agreement is “Don’t take anything personally.” This is something I’ve been working on for a long time, and I have to say it’s not an easy thing to learn.

I was thinking about a good way to illustrate the point, and this is what I came up with. Suppose you were at a nursing home, and a little old lady came up and started screaming at you, calling you a Nazi and accusing you of having had her family murdered. Now, this would probably be an upsetting event, right? You might feel very bad for the woman, for what she’s lived through, and for the fact that her mind is obviously not all it could be.

But would you lie awake at night wondering why she would treat you so badly? Would you be angry at the fact that she seemed to hate you? Would you obsess about it and replay the conversation in your head over and over again, coming up with witty or sharp comebacks that would have put her in her place?

No, you probably wouldn’t do any of those things. Why? Because you know that the episode was about what was going on in her head, not about anything you’d actually done.

And that’s a healthy way to look at anybody who you think is attacking you. Even if they think you did something to them, and even if you did, their attack is more about what’s going on in their head than what actually happened. You might legitimately owe them an apology, and if so you should offer one.

But the usual reaction is to get mad back, focusing on the fact that they’re attacking you. Then after the event we tend to obsess about it, feeling more and more aggrieved that they had the nerve to get angry at you. You want to make them feel like an asshole for making you feel like an asshole.

It’s kind of a vicious circle. Now they’re mad at you and you’re mad at them and nothing gets resolved. It’s a much better solution to accept the fact that they’re upset, offer any apologies you might owe them, and then realize that their anger is theirs to deal with, not yours. It’s not actually an attack on you; it’s simply them reacting to what’s going on in their own head.

Once you start practicing this, it becomes much easier to handle when someone’s angry at you. The best way I’ve found to practice it is to use a mantra from A Course in Miracles:  No attack thoughts. Realize that if you feel attacked it’s because you’re attacking back, even if it’s only that you’re offended that they’re attacking you. If you can let go of your defensive reaction, then it becomes easier to not see their anger as an attack. And once you can stop seeing it as a personal attack, it eventually stops being a personal attack. Don’t ask me why; I don’t understand it, but it seems to work.

Like I said, it’s a difficult concept to grasp, but practicing it has really contributed greatly to my peace of mind. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

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