Updated: Sep 15
Buckle up, I have some hard truths for you this Monday.
Let’s start here: if you took some emotional inventory right now, who or what are you mad at? Annoyed with? Resenting? Exhausted by? Fed up with? Crying over? Yelling at? Frustrated with? Holding a grudge against?
…maybe more than you are willing to admit?
Here’s the good & the bad news: it’s you.
The human race is conditioned to react to both real and imagined threat. As primitive beings, this reaction served us well; it alerted us to imminent danger, allowed us to respond accordingly & prioritized survival.
As modern-day people, and without having the daily worry of being eaten by a predator, the threat is usually microscopic, but our reaction remains prey-like.
*you know what they say…you can take the humans out of the stone age, but you can’t take the stone age out of the human*
This reaction trickles into our everyday life and manifests itself into what is called, ‘the victim mentality’.
Victim mentality rests on three beliefs:
1. bad things happen to me and will continue to + the world & everyone in it is out to get me
2. other people’s circumstances are to blame
3. nothing will resolve these issues, so there’s no point in trying
While I don’t believe that we all live in this state of the sufferer 100% of the time, I do believe that we allow ourselves to blame external circumstances for our problems & behaviors because, let’s be honest – it’s easier that way.
It’s difficult to take an honest look at ourselves; to admit that we might be the sole cause of every single problem we encounter. That would mean that we need to correct ourselves and we just don’t have the time or energy really do that kind of work, right?
…hopefully you hear how silly that sounds – we have time to watch Netflix but we don’t have time to get introspective and solve our own problems? Come on.
Here are some ways to improve self-awareness, take accountability, release emotional baggage & most importantly, solve some of the internal conflicts you’ve got going on.
GET TO THE ROOT OF IT
The reality is, we only react negatively to people or situations that trigger us in some way. The people in this world that we are most annoyed by or upset with act as mirrors being held up to us. Our reflection either shows us something we don’t like about ourselves or that we wish possessed more of. For example, if you are a shy empath, you are most likely annoyed by narcissists who seek attention. Your annoyance doesn’t come from general disdain, it comes from your soul level wanting to be seen but being afraid to fully step into that. It isn’t envy, it’s an example of what you know you need more of and vice versa; the narcissist is annoyed with the empath because, on a soul level, they know they need more empathy.
The point is, get to the root of why you’re triggered by said people or situations on a soul level. Yes, you’re annoyed by them, but why? Identify your weak spots and strengthen them. People who are right with themselves aren’t triggered by the behavior of others and that’s just a fact.
EXCUSES BE GONE
We are so good at making excuses for our behavior that most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Here are some of the subtle but common excuses I hear when people don’t want to own up to their actions:
It’s not my fault – I’m just reacting to their actions.
As soon as you (re)act, you are the one who is acting out of anger, frustration, overwhelm, sadness, etc. You were triggered and you ACTED, now it’s on you. So, is the other person now reacting to your actions or are you still reacting to theirs? It sounds like an impossible riddle because it is, as soon as you respond negatively or unproductively, you are the problem.
What I did/said was for their own good, I care about them and this is what’s best for them.
When we care about people and love them, we don’t project our lives or beliefs onto them. You don’t know their karmic path and you don’t need to interrupt it. Pay attention to yourself & put your blinders on.
If they apologize, so will I.
(insert eyeroll here). That’s all.
I have a temper; they know that, and they shouldn’t test me.
Your emotions are not other people’s responsibility – ever. No one should have to tip-toe around your ‘temper’ & no one should have to worry that you are going to unleash the inner beast on them. You’re an adult; figure out what has manifested itself into anger within you and take care of it. This is, not ‘just the way you are’, it is your responsibility to change or to actively choose your temper over loved ones.
I’m sorry that their feelings are hurt.
This is a classic case of succumbing to the victim mentality. You ‘didn’t do anything’, it’s the other person’s fault and they are the ones that need to make things right with you. Even if you feel this way, it takes two to tango. No matter what you did or didn’t do, you are a part of the equation – solve it (at least your piece of it).
We’re more evolved than this but we can’t expect for our problems to disappear because we justify them in our heads until they become irrelevant to our day-to-day.
I’ve been reading Byron Katie’s, “Loving What Is”, over and over so that the principles that she calls, ‘The Work’, become permanently ingrained in me. Katie theorizes that we cannot prove any ‘stressful thought’ to be true and therefore, cannot be stressed by it.
I highly recommend reading or listening to her books and then downloading her ‘The Work’ app so that you can do the work yourself – get ready to rethink everything & feel so much lighter.
Her methodology, while a bit unconventional is so effective – here is a very brief download:
1. Question the thought & ask, is this absolutely true?
a. ex) “My friends are being mean to me”. Is it true?
b. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
c. How can something objective be true? It can’t be, so it’s not true.
2. How do you react when you think that thought is true?
a. ex) I feel sad when I believe my friends are mean to me; I feel left out, hurt & alone.
3. Who are you without the thought?
a. ex) If I didn’t think my friends were being mean to me, I would feel happy and at peace in my relationships
4. Turn it around: in every way you can think to
a. ‘I am mean to my friends. I make them feel left out, hurt & alone’
b. ‘my friends are nice to me. They make me feel included, happy and loved’
c. ‘I am mean to myself. I exclude myself, hurt myself & isolate myself’
d. ‘I am nice to myself. I make myself feel included, I make myself feel happy & I love myself, so I am never alone’
The last question is really the zinger because it illustrates Katie’s exact point; it is not our reality that creates suffering, it is our thoughts about our reality that makes us miserable, turns us into victims & stimulates pain. By realizing that we see the world through a bias lens because of how we feel about ourselves, we are able to be at peace with our thoughts. Taking responsibility for our inner and outward thoughts is the key to a peaceful existence. Again, this is a very brief description of The Work and I encourage you to delve deeper into Byron Katie’s process – it seems a bit far out at first, but it is so worth understanding.
In conclusion, you are your only problem, ever. Look inward, acknowledge the good and the not-so-good & heal so that you can outwardly be the most peaceful version of yourself. The surer you are of yourself, the less affected you are by external circumstances. Rock solid love of yourself is the foundation for everything else.
Devyn Penney is a certified life & intimacy coach and the author of, "Mastering the Art of Internal Intimacy". This blog is dedicated to ending small talk by having Big Conversations, "the only way we connect is through love, empathy and an open line of communication".