Let’s have a look at a couple of case studies. Sally (as I will call her) has experienced, for all of her adult life, men becoming obsessed with her. No matter how clearly she explains that she isn’t attracted to them, isn’t interested in a relationship and doesn’t have the same feelings of fate, destiny or eternal love for them, the men continue to obsess about her, convinced that one day she will change her mind. When that day doesn’t arrive years on from the first declaration of attraction by the men they turn nasty and creepy in their disappointment, frustration and shock. Sally is frequently asked by friends to explain to them what it is that she does to these men to make them obsessed with her.
Here’s the thing: if it is Sally causing the men to be obsessed with her then she has a talent few people have. She has the ability to be in control of other people’s thoughts, feelings, words and actions. Yet, we are told all the time that we can’t control other people. Asking Sally to explain what she does to cause men’s reactions towards her is placing the responsibility with her and denying others’ power to choose how they behave.
If we apply my saying – everything is about you, nothing is about you to Sally’s situation what will happen is this: if she took on the belief that it was all about her she would spend endless amounts of time and energy exploring how she makes men obsess about her. She may then change her charismatic personality, she may dress differently, she might start to talk less and shrink her presence around others out of the fear that she may make another man obsessed with her. But, what will continue to happen is that men will still obsess about her. The cycle of misplaced responsibility, shame and blame will continue.
If Sally decided that the men were responsible for their obsession and she had been clear about her own intentions and desires; if she knew that studies had shown that men are more likely to believe a women is more attracted to them than they really are and they over-rate their attractiveness to the opposite sex; and if she knew about Freud’s theory of defence mechanisms, especially fantasy and projection, and could clearly identify how these men created fantasies about her and projected their desires and feelings onto her believing their self-deception that she wanted what they wanted, she wouldn’t personalise this experience. This isn’t about her, it’s about them.
My other saying – if you try hard enough you will always find a lesson – also applies. Sally could still learn something out of this experience, even if the lesson is ‘it’s not about her!’ She could learn about her attractiveness, her personality, her ability to shine brightly, her compassion, her strength, her ability to state clearly her needs, her ability to set firm and healthy boundaries and her ability to deal with challenging situations.
No matter what, there is a purpose to all experiences.
Let’s look at another case study and this person I will call Tom. Tom attended a work conference, meeting many new people on the first day but found that over the three days people seemed to become defensive, even hostile towards him and he wasn’t being included in conversations anymore. Applying my saying Tom could decide that these people were all rude and it had nothing to do with him.
But, what if, Tom’s tone of voice was very gruff. Not knowing Tom these people found him aggressive, negative and even judgemental of their conversations. They felt defensive around him and wanting to enjoy their conference preferred to avoid Tom. In this situation the problem is Tom hasn’t ever learnt that his tone of voice can put people off talking to him and the difficulties he has in communicating with people sits with him.
If Tom wants to have better conversations with people; if he wants to improve his connection with others; and if he wants to experience loving, gentle and open communication then ‘it’s all about him’ learning about his tone of voice and communication styles. The lesson is obvious as is the responsibility.
As you can see it is the circumstances of any given situation that determine whether ‘it is all about you or it’s not’. In the next blog I will explore our beliefs and ‘signs’.
When have you tried to take responsibility for the choices someone else has made?