Why Owning Your Experiences Keeps You In The Driver’s Seat Of Your Life
Are you the driver or passenger in your life?
The first step in any process of personal development is to own all of your experiences. Because if you are not the ‘owner’ of what happens in your life, how can you then make the changes you want? By owning our experience, we also open up to more connection, instead of closing down in defence and hurt.
If you cause me to feel something, I have no power to change it the way I would want it to be, I end up being a passive victim. On the other hand, if I accept that I’m the source of all the things that happen to and within me, I’m suddenly in full power over my own life.
In relationships when you feel hurt or sad, avoid thinking or saying ”you’re making me sad”, instead try to cultivate the habit of owning your own experience, by thinking ”I’m making me sad”.
This opens up a new dimension of internal awareness. It allows me to investigate what about the situation triggered me and resulted in an experience of e.g. feeling sad. It most likely had to do with some of my past experiences, wounds, and insecurities. The person who in that moment I want to think ”made me sad”, was actually just the trigger, an outside factor that I myself reacted to because there are things inside of me sensitive to that specific situation.
For example, in a situation, we have three people with equally complex and meaningful relationships with each other. Person 1 says a comment to person 2. We don’t need to know what was said, only that person 2 now feels upset and hurt by that comment. Person 1 says the exact same comment to person 3. The difference is that person 3 has no negative experience from the comment, they might even find it funny or completely unnoticeable.
Why did person 2 and 3 react in different ways to what was said by person 1? One way of understanding it is that person 2 has some kind of past experience, some underlying belief about themselves, or maybe some past complexity in the relationship with person 1, that in one way or another made that comment feel hurtful. Person 3 doesn’t have any of those, which is why they didn’t feel hurt at all.
The exact same words, spoken with the same intention, to two different people have had two very different effects. Knowing this, can we really blame person 1 for causing person 2 to feel anything? Was it not person 2’s own internal response and sensitivity to what was said that caused the hurtful feelings?
As a caring and loving friend, we can of course always try to consider the other person’s reaction before we say or do something. A kind of sensitivity and consideration that we all should try to cultivate, since it simply makes relationships easier, reducing potential fights and misunderstandings.
But! I strongly believe we should never expect another person to understand how we will react or feel in response to something. Most of the time we don’t even understand ourselves, so it’s a bit presumptuous to expect others to be more insightful.
Whether it’s a dear friend, my partner or a stranger, I always try to bring my experiences back to myself. Even if they know me well, and I like to think ‘they should know by now that this kind of comment hurts me’, I still choose to think that my hurtful feelings were a result of something in me that got triggered, rather than a result of the action done by the other person.
In these situations, I imagine a third person. Someone else in the exact same setting, exposed to the exact same factors, but that has a very different response compared to my own. Imagining this helps me bring my experience back to myself. It gives me the perspective of just how subjective and personal my experience is, how many layers and internal factors play a role in my final response. Being reminded of this, I simply can’t blame someone else for making me feel something. It also helps me to avoid thinking that they intentionally are trying to hurt me.
This is an empowering realisation. It even takes the edge of whatever negative feelings I experience. Because in the experience of hurt, shame, fear, or any other difficult emotion you might have in that situation, at least now you don’t have to feel attacked by the person who is the trigger. Instead, you can open up to them and share the pain that moves inside of you. This way you reach out a hand and invite connection, empathy and love. Rather than building a strong wall of defence around yourself, to keep safe from the ‘enemy’ who attacks and causes you harm.
So, owning our experiences isn’t only a practice of empowering ourselves. It’s also an act of increasing love and connection in all of our relationships.