Should you take things personally?

The email was making my blood boil. I was stunned to the point I didn’t know what to think and as my fingers started to hit reply, I was already formulating a response. That’s when I realized I had unknowingly walked into ego country and I knew I needed to find a way out—and fast. The problem? I was taking the email personally.

As a society, we’re really good at taking things personally. The co-worker who is friendly and helpful to everyone except you; the driver who flips you off on the highway when you’re simply minding your own business; or the flippant remark from your spouse at the end of a long day. The benchmark of taking things personally is always the same: we feel strong emotions and they usually aren’t good. Taking things personally brings us anger, sadness, rage and depression.

New age and spiritual teachers frequently teach us to not take things personally. They teach us that developing thicker skin or turning our attention away from the problem are better psychological responses to daily situations. And in some of these cases, they’re right. However, there are some advantages to taking things personally and they mesh very well with conscious creation.

Why not to take things personally

Plainly and simply, the biggest problem in situations where you feel singled out is your ego. To itself, the ego’s purpose is clear: to help you navigate through physical reality. It helps you judge the physical landscape and make adjustments in your own thinking and behavior that it perceives are in your best interest. But the ego has become inflexible. And with that inflexibility, it has conditioned itself to think the worst of any situation.

When you’re thinking the worst, you take things personally. In my earlier email example, I was convinced that my friend had singled me out and was speaking directly to me, despite her very clear language to the contrary. The ego puts a lot of energy into protecting itself and it feels that by preparing for a worst-case scenario, it will be better off in the long run.

The other big challenge to the ego is its lack of knowledge. The ego is helping you focus your physical reality and no one else’s. The ego and the intellect are not equipped to handle great amounts of knowledge and are therefore given only small bits of information from the inner self. The hardened ego doesn’t allow you to know why your friend just cancelled your lunch plans, it only wants to make sure you’re mad as hell about it. When you don’t have all of the information, you don’t have clear insight into others’ thoughts and opinions. Your friend may be having a bad day and doesn’t want to burden you with her problems. She may be feeling ill and too embarrassed to say anything. Without that knowledge, you and your ego assume the issue is with you.

You understand that you manifest what you concentrate upon. In this case, taking things personally leads to a barrage of similar situations. In conscious creation, it’s important to align your thoughts, emotions and beliefs with the outcome you desire. Spending time and energy with “why me?” syndrome only gets you more of the same. Choose a different direction.

Why to take things personally

So if we don’t know all the answers and we’re running around with hardened egos, what good can come from taking something personally? First and foremost, it allows you to become aware of your own subjective thoughts and emotions and then gives you the chance to change them. You get ownership in the process and take an active role in transforming it into something beneficial.

Often, simply the awareness that you’ve taken something personally allows you to make a significant shift in its transformation. The recognition tells you, “I created this,” or “I attracted this,” which means you can then say, “I can move through this.” Without that conscious acknowledgement, you may not be aware of your own power.

Another critical signpost in this area is to gauge your emotional reaction to situations that cause you to feel singled out. Very strong emotions—hurt, anger, sadness, and rage—are a direct hit to your system. If the emotional nature is strong, it’s vying for your attention. It’s your inner self telling you that you seek change in this area and opens up the possibility for change. You must be conscious of that impulse.

When your emotional reaction is weaker or more subdued, you become somewhat immune to the feelings. The reaction is more of an annoyance and over time may not get you to react. Taking something personally and having a strong reaction may be your inner self’s way of getting you to deal with a particular topic, person or belief that you wish to change. A slap in the face is sometimes very effective.

Moving in the right direction

If you’re faced with a situation where you take something personally, it’s important to approach the solution with a conscious mind. First, become aware of your subjective feeling. That is, be aware of the fact you’re taking something personally. This can be difficult when the ego is involved since you may be focused intensely on the issues themselves as opposed to the realization of your reaction. It takes practice to do this.

In the next moment, decide that you won’t react to anyone but yourself until you are clear headed. That means inaction with others and interaction with yourself. Now is when you should experience your emotions fully. Acknowledge them and release them. If you’re mad, shout it to the bathroom wall. If you’re sad, cry about it. Releasing emotions prevents energy blockages from forming and doing damage to your physical and psychological systems.

When the immediate emotions have passed, take some time exploring your thoughts and beliefs. The situation may be causing to you identify strongly in a particular area: do you feel left out, taken advantage of, ignored, misunderstood? If the thoughts and beliefs fall into areas that you’ve struggled with before, you may need to work through your feelings in a more structured environment. Taking time to do a belief exercise or journal your feelings may give you insight into your own mind and help you work through the issues.

If the situation genuinely feels outside of you, that is, if you feel you are relatively innocent in the situation, it’s time to confront the other person (nicely). Communication is the only way to clear the air when you’ve taken something personally. If your friend cancelled lunch plans and you still don’t know why, ask them about it. Tell them it made you upset or angry and ask for clarification. Communication gives your intellect and your ego the missing information it was denied earlier and may help you understand that it’s not all about “you.”

Finally, there’s an important conscious creation step that helps more than anything. Bring positive affirmation to the forefront of situations where you take things personally. Convince and remind yourself that uncovering emotional triggers is a good positive step. Have the expectation that this process is empowering and that what you are experiencing is a lesson. If you consistently expect a positive outcome, that’s what you’ll get.

Remember, it’s not all about you and yet it is all about you. Your reactions, your understanding and your choices can lead you to a more fulfilling existence. Start with yourself, realize your role(s) in life and allow yourself the courage to address anything that needs your attention.