Tag Archives: Four Agreement

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

Recovery from Childhood – a Lifelong Journey…

24 Jan

I am a big believer in The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and his recent book The Fifth Agreement.  In summary, don Miguel teaches us to get over the seemingly innocent agreements we entered into and made (often unconsciously) in early life.  We accepted these in childhood as a done deal imposed by parents with the noble intent of “domesticating” us into submission and assimilation into a civil society.

Our parents typically raised us in the same way they were, without consideration that such ways might not prepare us to deal with the disappointments and realities of adult life.  Case in point:  life is not fair, and there are no guarantees of respectful treatment, yet many of us learned to follow the Golden Rule.  Others were taught (especially females) to take care of others first and foremost (see my previous post Put on Your Own Mask First for more about this…)  These concepts don’t hold in adult world where others are focused on self-interests (as well they should.)

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement are worthwhile investments for anyone seeking to understand relationships – especially because both books explain how to work with others and ourselves in daily life.  I love the writings and the works!

In spite of studying and practicing The Four Agreements (1. Live with Integrity; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Never assume (ask questions instead); and 4. Always do your best) – I face challenges to overcome “childhood teachings”- even though decades separate me from those years.  Moreover, in talking to friends both older and younger, I am not alone!

Why is it that we spend the first 15-20 years learning how to live (childhood) and the rest of our life overcoming the same?

Some people do not have childhood baggage.  I know people whose childhoods abounded with unconditional love and acceptance, and their parents treated them as the apple(s) of their eyes. As a result, one friend has so much self-esteem that co-workers tire of her incredibly healthy self-image!  Unfortunately, I think that this situation is more the exception than the rule.

Is there ever a point when our parents can no longer get under our skin, or when they are no longer the voices in our heads?

Even though I am middle-aged, I routinely get emails from my father chiding me for not calling enough (I call every week), emailing enough (I respond and send emails all the time), thanking enough for gifts (no matter that I have).  These emails bother me, and it bothers me that they bother me!  I should be used to the treatment by now… and one would think I would stop hoping for acceptance!

As an accomplished professional, I know that I am a great person – so why would I still hold out hope that my father will someday notice this?  As a child, I learned that 97% was never good enough – it was always 3% short of the perfection that meant acceptance.

Why do we keep hoping for change in others even when we know that we can only change ourselves?  Why do grown women seek approval from judgmental fathers (and often marry similar men)?  Why do grown men keep hoping they will buy that perfect gift for an unapproving mother?  Why do we strive to make our parents proud long after it shouldn’t matter?

I know that parental love is expressed by pointing out shortfalls and faults, yet I still hold onto the dream that someday just being ME will be enough.  I’m not alone in the lifetime journey of recovering from childhood and some people have it much worse. I read about similar struggles on blogs, in discussions, and in listening to friends and colleagues worldwide!

I am optimistic as I watch my son and daughter-in-law raising two daughters in a loving, accepting and supportive home, and it warms my heart as they show their princesses unconditional love.  Even so, I wonder if anyone has a childhood from which they do not seek to recover.

Wishing you a peaceful week where you experience self-love and an ongoing recovery as you move forward in your life!

Carol

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