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Navigating Hurtful Remarks (without getting all defensive)

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 68

I haven't done an awful lot of podcasts about how this stuff applies to my life, and you probably want some tangible examples occasionally. So that's hopefully what this week is.

I have had something just happen over the last week, which I've been running around my brain a little bit and trying to untangle. And I think it's probably quite a familiar situation for a lot of people.

So, someone that I love made a slight aside that was said with the intention of it being received as humorous, but actually, I found it quite hurtful, and they said that they thought that I "acted superior". And it's really interesting that this is something that, for me, happens to be quite a pain point. I don't think of myself as someone who's superior. I don't think of myself as someone who has more knowledge than anyone else. I pride myself in the fact that a lot of my work is aimed at trying to help people find their own answers. And if anything, I think that I'm quite good at collecting valuable questions to ask yourself along the way and maybe I'm a question gatherer rather than an answer giver.

And so I always try and make sure that in the work that I do, I'm always helping with every step that I take. I'm helping people take two steps on their own. So when someone accuses me of being I'm using the word accusing, look at the way I'm talking about it, accuses me of acting superior, I find that quite hurtful.

Now, if I apply the work that I teach other people and that I do on myself and that I have studied, I can pick apart this scenario, and I would do so as such, and I'm going to do it sort of in real-time for you. So you can maybe find some useful stuff in this just to see how it all plays out.

So basically, in this situation, I would look for the factual circumstances here, the absolute facts, not the story that I'm telling or how I'm telling it to myself or how I tell it to my best mate, but really strip it down to the absolute basics. And the absolute basics here are that the words were said to me that "I act superior".

Now, when I hear those words, I then take a step back from that and go, okay, in this scenario, what is it that I'm thinking that is causing me to feel suffering in this situation? And I could strip down, I could lay a whole load of thoughts that I had obviously like "no, I'm bloody well not". "How could you say that?" "I'm doing an awful lot of things for you right now. How could you be mean?" There's an awful lot of things like that.

But if I take all of these thoughts and I sort of unravel them a little bit, I think the thought that I really have underneath all of this, which causes me pain, is: you don't like me very much. And if I think about why the idea that someone might not like me very much causes me suffering, it's because I actually don't want to be rejected.

So when I'm thinking "I don't want to be rejected", what I then look at is go, okay, well, when I'm sort of fixating on this idea that I don't want to be rejected, what kind of things do I do? What kind of things do I not do? How does my behaviour tumble out from this fear of rejection. And some of the things that I do very much this week has been to ruminate over the incident to think about what I could have done to cause this, to think of other examples that may have come up in my life. I remember being a teenager and being accused of being a yuppy by a relative and thinking, "I'm broke; what are you talking about?" But it still stays with me as something that feels like sort of quite a harsh insult. And I sort of back myself up and defend myself and bolster myself only to myself, but maybe not always only to myself. In this circumstance, it was only myself of like, "I'm doing so many kind things at the moment. How can you be mean about me?" and feel very sorry for myself and sort of try and justify the way that I am in the right and they are in the wrong.

When I look at all of these actions that I take, and I list them all out, I actually write them down. Then, I can see in front of me what my responses actually are. I then try to look at the actions that I have on the paper in front of me and ask, when I take actions like this, what actually shows up for me in my life? And it's really interesting when I go through all of these actions, I'm looking for validation. I'm trying to back my story up. I'm looking for other scenarios where this has happened. All of these actions are me sort of trying to prove myself right and them wrong.

And in a way, you could suggest that that is me being a little bit superior.

And this system, I think, can quite easily sometimes look like we're trying to take on too much responsibility for what other people are thinking about us, or basically sort of gaslighting ourselves going, well, if they're saying these things, then it must be my fault. And it's never about blame. But when I am thinking the thought "this person is rejecting me", what this causes is for me to take a whole load of actions where I am rejecting the self that I am in this present moment, which is actually doing. I'm in a place right now where I've given an awful lot up to help other people in my life because this is what's needed at this particular moment and juncture and for a whole load of personal reasons. And actually me trying to justify what I'm not, causes me to not be present with what I am at the moment whereas I'm all lost and up in myself about where this person has rejected me, that's just causing me to reject myself. And I'm not as rooted in my own values or my own core or my own centre as to why I'm doing what I'm doing. What I'm doing is getting all lost in their interpretation or what may have even just been a rubbish sort of ill-formed joke and how that landed with me, rather than my value system and what I want to be doing.

So when I can kind of take a step back from that and go okay, well, this is why this feels really uncomfortable because I think that they're rejecting me and so I'm getting more lost in making sure they don't reject me than me accepting myself, then what would I rather be thinking in this circumstance?

It doesn't have to be big, lofty, instagram meme goals, it could be just something that's a bit more peaceful for me. So in this circumstance, for example, someone could say has said to me that I'm acting in a superior manner. And the way that I could want to feel about it, if I rummage in my brain would probably be to be compassionate. Because I want to be feeling like they are allowed their own opinion, that they're having a bit of a hard time at the moment, and they were trying to make a joke that they're having quite a hard time at the moment, and they might have been trying to sort of regain some control in a situation that feels like it's quite out of control. And when I kind of think thoughts like that I'm more likely to just be more present in the things that I want to be doing, how I want to be, behaving who I want to be in this situation, how I want to show up. And I don't get lost in trying to prove myself to somebody else.

So it isn't that I'm trying to pretend that something hasn't happened that it has. And it isn't that I'm trying to take too much responsibility for something that wasn't my fault. It's just when I sit around and sort of defend myself and say, well, "That's really shit. They shouldn't have said that. This is all really awful." I don't enjoy it very much. It just isn't very nice.

And there are a whole load of other ways that I can think about this that just take me back to my centre and back to my core about who I want to be here. And I generally find that that is always preferable to sitting and ruminating in the shit, frankly.

So I thought maybe working through a tangible example with you all might be really useful. I hope it is. I hope there's some stuff in there that you might be able to find applicable to your own life.

And this is very similar to the stuff that we do on the coaching calls every week over at So if you ever want to run through some of your own stuff or have just some guided questions to help you be able to unravel where you are and have a look at it from an outsider's point of view and see where you might want to be, that's exactly what we do. So if you'd like to join us, I'd love to see you inside.


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