Taking things too personally

Another symptom of our emotional baggage is taking an upsetting occurrence too personally. We cannot prevent ourselves from over-reacting and making "a mountain out of a molehill". Our baggage regards the small stuff as a big, unresolved issue that induces panic, paranoia and petulance. In an instant, we feel powerless, victimized and very vulnerable. It feels like our defenses have vanished, our mask has been ripped off and our hurt feelings have been left out in the open. We are poised to fight or take flight.

When we are taking something too personally, our minds are "outer directed". Our experience starts on the outside and leaves us no choice but to react to the facts that present themselves. We are hard-wired to whatever happens. We are a victim of our circumstances until we "get over it". We cannot let it go, get a grip or simmer down while it obviously remains upsetting, out of control and unacceptable. Until something changes on the outside, our mood is miserable and our worries appear to be making accurate assessments of the possibilities.

When we succeed at getting over it, we've switched to being "inner directed". Our experience begins on the inside where we choose what to perceive and what meaning to give everything. We can see the incident, people and repercussions as "half empty or half full". It's not clearly one thing, easily labeled or meant to be taken literally. What it means is up for grabs and available for playing around with interpretations, frames of reference and points of view.

We're only free to be inner directed when the current occurrence is not really the same as before in our minds. Something has changed about us, the people involved or the exact circumstances involved. Our routine reactions seem inappropriate given these recent variations. The latest version of provocations is somewhat mysterious, unfamiliar and worthy of further investigation. We feel the inclination to wonder about the details, consider new questions and explore unforeseen possibilities. We return to a state of innocence with it's companion peace of mind. We observe what is outside of us with no immediate sense of how to perceive it, interpret its significance or react to what has happened.

This suggests that sometimes we can disrupt an over-reaction as it's occurring by talking to ourselves. We can remember that we don't really know what this means. We can tell ourselves there's more than one way to see this. We can deliberately choose to see it differently than our panic and paranoia advise. We can simply chill out without deciding what to see, explain or do about it. We can dismantle the strong urges and restore a feeling of calm before anything significant has changed on the outside.


  1. she has a temper and reacts by closing off to me and it drives me crazy, i tell her that her behaviour disturbs me and all she says is i take it too personally, i am reluctant to be around her because of it

  2. thanks for a great example of how this plays out in a relationship. there's more to these reactions than meets the eye. it's very likely that she's saying that her temper is a sign of her taking things too personally just like she accuses you of being. when she says "you take things too personally", she might be hoping you'll understand her, stick around and not be put off by her temper. likewise, saying "you take things too personally" frames the two of you as "in the same boat", belonging together or "on the same page". when you provide evidence of not understanding how she is taking things too personally, she would then see the need to protect you from her temper by closing off from you. when her closing off disturbs you or drives you crazy, makes you want reluctant to be with her, she may be secretly delighted that you're not that different from her and perfectly content to live with the present misunderstanding between you. cheers!