“Step Out of the Way”
This is the March 2015 “One Moment Shifts” monthly, e-mailed blog.
Last month I responded to a friend’s request to speak about mindful and empowering ways to handle when others “drag us through the mud.” I mentioned 3 steps we can take:
1. step out of the way of the attack (protect ourselves from physical, mental, emotional harm),
2. blend (with the attacking energy), and
3. redirect peacefully and return to balance.
I spoke generally about these last month, and this month I will focus on step #1., step out of the way.
To begin, I want to address an incorrect assumption about mindfulness. Mindfulness is not, and does not promote, passiveness. Rather, mindfulness helps us to be more in tune with our true values and morals, so that we can then make choices accordingly. Most of us value respecting our self and respecting others. If we were to communicate according to this value, we would be communicating assertively – I address my needs without disrespecting your needs (including the need to be respected). (If you are not familiar with assertive “I statements,” I encourage you to look this up and begin practicing them now!)
In addition, mindfulness practices actually change the parts of our brain responsible for feeling compassion for self and for others. We want to protect our self from harm, and that is truly compassionate.
We can also build compassion for the attacker. This might take some time and be a bit (or a lot!) of a stretch at first. Maybe starting with understanding that hurt people tend to hurt people, or that the person simply does not have the skills to be effective.
It’s super easy to focus on the other person and what they did wrong, how they are terrible at life, and how they should be the one getting dragged through the mud. But I promise you, that energy will not serve you. I encourage you to instead focus on yourself and any possible lessons that life is trying to show you through the unfortunate situation. There is always something to learn. If we don’t learn it now, it’s just going to keep showing up with a different person, in a different situation. Some times this includes looking at how the person came to the conclusion that they did about you; perhaps it’s time to change what we are doing. (This isn’t about justifying the others’ actions. This is simply about focusing on what we do have control over, which is our self.)
Okay, so all that being said, when we are in a situation that we feel we are being dragged through the mud or treated disrespectfully, step #1 is Step Out Of The way. This is what is respectful for our self, and respectful for the other person. We show our self respect by not staying in a situation that is harmful and causes suffering. Stepping out of the way also shows compassion to the attacker. We are reducing the availability to act in a way that is hurtful to others (you). Hurting others is hurting your self.
A passive approach would be to continue “taking it,” even though it hurts(emotionally, mentally, or physically). Just because we have compassion for the person who is attacking us, that doesn’t mean we have to lose compassion for our self! We have enough wounds to heal, we don’t need more. Step Out Of The Way!
Acting aggressively (physically hurting, name calling, saying hurtful things, sabotaging the other person, passive-aggressively speaking badly of them behind their back) would not be in line with our values. I love the Dalai Lama quotes, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible,” and “If you can, help others. If you cannot do that, at least do no harm.”
It is okay to express to someone that your feelings are hurt, or that the action they took did not show respect for you. (Review assertive “I statements!”) However, getting caught up in proving them wrong, or trying to convince everyone else that the person who dragged you through the mud is the evil one, is really just getting caught up in the mud itself. Step out of it. Attacking back does not solve any problems. You just become part of their problem.
If you are not part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. Period.
So, when we leave the room when a conversation has taken a turn towards hurtful, or we leave a relationship with a friend or partner because the dynamics are toxic, or we simply decide to not feed into someone else’s muddy actions, stepping out of the way shows compassion to our self and is also living according to our values to respect our self, respect others, be a part of a solution, and do no harm.
One last comment: though I’m sure he wasn’t the first to mention this powerful reminder to focus on our self, a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer is totally worth mentioning here: “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”
Peaceful travels on your journey to your happiest self!