When Being Yourself Hurts…
About three years ago I introduced my BFF to my favorite food, Indian buffet and since then, we have gone almost every week, with some exceptions.
Two weeks ago, we were sharing stories of struggle and triumph over vegetable korma and naan bread, then I said something that set him off.
To be clear, him “getting set of” just means he got on the defensive and said something that hurt my feelings. He doesn’t attack me verbally or otherwise, and if we get heated, he never crosses a line into name-calling, crazy accusations, or things he can’t take back. It’s pretty mild. It hurts, like any misunderstanding between friends, but we fix it and it’s over.
In the moment, though, it feels crappy, hurtful, mean, and I wonder if I can really trust him with my true self and my feelings.
We weren’t getting anywhere so we stopped talking and I wiped my tears and got up to get more food. When I returned, he told me why he thought he was upset. I understood his reasoning, but it didn’t compute with my reality and how hurtful what he had said to me really was, so I disagreed.
The Filter of “The Book of Law”
Then I remembered something I’ve been helping my clients become more aware of within themselves in order to better their own experiences in life…
Every person thinks, speaks, and acts based on their own filter created by the “Book of Law,” as Don Miguel Ruiz calls it in “The 4 Agreements,” that was programmed into them as a child and reinforced through the fact that every experience must validate that rule book, even if in your mind you know there is another perspective.
I looked at my friend’s handsome, uncharacteristically somber face and quickly gathered some facts I know about him in order to imagine what filter he may have been experiencing my original statement through.
Instantly, I was snapped out of my own hurt feelings and gained empathy for him. Whether I was right or wrong in my “guess” about why it bothered him so much didn’t matter, because I had come up with a scenario in which I could actually understand why he would react and in turn hurt my feelings.
(Variations of this skill can also be used to have empathy for an abuser, which kept me stuck in a harmful marriage—the key is to know when to use it and know when to walk away for the greater good. That is a topic for another time. To be clear, this is not an abusive situation, this is a misunderstanding among friends—no two people are coming from exactly the same perspective, so these things happen!)
I asked him, “When I said X, did it feel like Y to you? Is that why it bothered you?”
He thought for half a second, and confirmed.
I asked, “Okay, so you’re not upset I brought it up, it’s more in the way I said it, and had I said it this other way it would have felt different to you?”
He agreed again.
2-for-2—It Works Again
Earlier this week, I was talking to a family member who knows some private but pertinent information that led to my entire life turning upside-down. I am hurt and can’t understand why this person isn’t as affected by this information as I was. They are supportive of me, but clearly can’t understand where I’m coming from.
I remembered I had just had a great experience turning my hurt feelings around with my BFF, so I tried it again.
I merely took a moment to realize from that person’s perspective, they simply cannot afford to imagine a piece of information that conflicts with other information they have, which they firmly believe through undeniable means.
I was actually in that exact same boat, with the same former information, and with my own undeniable reasons to stick with it. However, when the new information was presented to me, it came directly from a person involved, a friend of mine… This personal connection FORCED me to look at the information, even though it created a conflict of two “truths” that can’t coexist, which fueled a living hell for me for a time.
My family member wasn’t told directly by my friend. They don’t even know my friend. So to my family member, it’s far enough removed they can ignore it. I can’t.
I can, however, put aside my own hurt feelings about my family member, because I understand their perspective—I would have reacted the exact same way just a few years ago.
Stepping into their “Book of Law filter” helped me to realize that it’s not about me, or them slighting me, or them not understanding me… It’s about them not being able to fathom this new information that conflicts with other information they would live and die for. And that’s it. No need for me to be hurt.
Even if I’m ever wrong in these filters I’m trying to uncover, the act of trying to come up with why their perspective would make sense, even if I still disagree, makes me feel better, and turns my sadness, pain, or anger into empathy and I’m over it!
It is that simple. At the very least it helps.
We talked more about the Book of Law in the context of being your own, authentic, real self without fear of judgment of others recently—download the Shine Without Fear audio here.
And if you’ve been wanting to change your Book of Law filter so you can make some big leaps, you might be looking for my Inner Circle: Ultimate Breakthrough program.