“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” – Wayne Dyer
Geez, I have heard this so many times, it is quite annoying. Ironically, it is most often heard from my inner voice reminding me to get out of my own bubble assuming everything is about me or done because of me. And it’s not.
Raising children for me has been such a blessing, as I feel I get to grow up again in sort of a way, and see the world through new eyes. The lessons often come faster than I can digest, and sometimes I can be a little slow at catching on to what is truly happening, yet eventually, I seem to understand and really let the wisdom soak in.
We’ve just begun our winter break, and the bickering is higher than usual. Well, higher than our busy school days. Partly, it feels like all three are now home, and are re-adjusting to what it means to have sisters around all day and a different schedule and expectations than at school. It’s not pleasant, but I can understand it if I give it a moment. Although the phrases we hear so often are accusatory of one another’s assumptions, we had to take a time out to walk this through.
It’s really not about you.
I say this, and I get 6 eyes staring blankly back at me. I confirm with them that my 4 heads aren’t showing and then continue. When one is picking on another, it’s about them wanting a reaction. Maybe a specific reaction, maybe just any reaction. The outcome may not matter, as long as it changes the moment. They want to get a reaction that changes how they are feeling in that moment. Whichever sister takes the bait, well that’s who becomes the target. It may not be a desirable change, but it’s certainly a change.
When someone does something to us, it often is about the other person and their perceived understanding of what will happen.
If we don’t play along, the desired change or outcome doesn’t happen, and it will either get worse and the instigator will up the ante, or the person will move on to someone who will play along. And this is how we get roped in to someone else’s drama. We take the bait, we think it is about us. Their facial expression. Their comment. Their judgment. But in reality, it’s not about us. We can’t change someone else’s behavior or opinion with any certainty.
The thing we can change is our reaction.
Closing our availability to manipulation keeps us from getting tangled in behavior and situations in which we don’t want to be involved. It can be incredibly challenging, as sometimes, it’s not strangers or people with whom we can easily disengage. Those are the easy ones. The harder ones are the family members, the loved ones, those that we interact with on a daily basis.
When our girls throw out the forever, never, ever being your friend again type talk, we ask them to take it one situation at a time. We ask them to check their own behavior in how they could have contributed to the current situation and how they could help make it better. Sometimes it requires taking some space. Sometimes it requires recognizing patterns of behavior and knowing when to step away, and equally when to come back. Sometimes it requires firmly setting a boundary of how they wish to be treated and following through in leaving a situation when those boundaries are not respected.
And as it is for many in the world around us, (and these three sisters), there are some times that require taking a step back, remembering that while it is often not about us, our reaction absolutely is.