Stuff – Yours and Theirs

Making someone else’s internal reality about us instead of about them is a hook for wanting them to change. We then enter a trap that leads to control and manipulation and away from a heart connection that is truly satisfying. From this place of feeling like a victim, we can move into being the persecutor – pushing people in our lives either passively or openly to behave differently.

It’s really difficult to see ourselves from a vantage point of objectivity. We’re way too close. Therefore, noticing our thoughts, feelings, assumptions and judgments about others give us a more accurate view of our own ‘stuff’ (unfinished business). When we have lots of feelings and judgments about someone’s actions or words – when we are triggered – it’s usually about aspects of ourselves that we either don’t like or that we have disowned. We unconsciously project onto others instead of looking at ourselves.

We do this; those around us do this. Therefore, when we receive feedback from others – especially feedback in which a trigger is present (emotion-based) – it is really about the other person. In other words, other people’s reactions to us as well as their behaviours, judgments and feelings (stuff) belong to them.

It doesn’t mean we are absolved of any responsibility for our impact. When we get feedback about our behaviour, there may be some truth to it. The point is we get to choose whether we change or not. The key is to take responsibility for our own stuff; not anyone else’s.

For example, if a person is feeling disgruntled and negative or withdraws because of hurt feelings around something that was said, and I make it all about me, I could then start to feel blamed and ‘made wrong’. I could feel disconnected from my true nature – my core that is all about love. I could, in turn, become angry, blame the person who is out of balance, wish they were different, and then try to get them to change. Or close down and try to protect myself. The result is that I actually end up hurting myself because it doesn’t feel good to judge – myself or anyone else.

Take a moment to gently close your eyes and find a quiet place inside of you through your breath. When you reach that place of breathing deeply, see in front of you that part of yourself that can take someone else’s ‘stuff’ and somehow own it as your own. What does s/he look like? Feel like? Like a laser camera, get a real sense of this part of you. What does s/he want you to know about what it’s been like to live this way? Listen as you continue to be aware of your breath. Whatever floats to the surface is worthy of your attention and loving acceptance. Talk to this part that is sharing with you from your heart – repeating all that was said in a loving way. Show compassion and understanding. Make peace with this part that has been suffering. Let this part know that you are entering a new journey – one that is full of self-commitment and self-responsibility rather than over-responsibility. Notice the sensations in your body and any shifts in this part of you that you’ve been addressing. Breathe.

How do we step out of owning other people’s stuff? The awareness that comes from taking the time to read articles like this and reflect on how this pattern shows up in our lives is the first step. Then practice simply noticing; our ‘observer’ will point out to us when we’re in someone else’s business rather than our own. Choice determines our next step – setting the intention to claim our own life (including our own stuff rather than anyone else’s) inclines our mind in a new direction.

Being compassionate and showing loving kindness to the person who is disgruntled or angry or hurt or moody becomes so much easier when we stop taking their inner reality – which then influences their behaviour – personally. We can then let them be, trusting that they are resourceful and capable of creatively addressing their own ‘stuff’.

This is freedom – for you and for the people who surround you. The reality is that none of us can change anyone else. It takes self-awareness, time, support, and a solid commitment to change our own behaviour; all of us who coach or are coached know this from experience.

Owning another person’s stuff is a never ending journey upstream in the river of life instead of flowing downstream with the natural current. The payoff from choosing the downstream path of staying with ourselves instead of owning anyone’s else’s stuff is priceless. It stops us from being a leaf in the wind and grounds us to our core. Stress drips away. We essentially own our own power – the foundation of vitality, creativity, love, and acceptance.

BOLA TANGKAS