August 13

“I Feel Like . . .”

August 13, 2014

Personal Growth

Rita originally contacted me for help with her life going down the toilet—out of control stress, with many physical symptoms, and terrible relationships with her husband, children, and other family members. So I helped her see how often she argues, insists on being right, blames, and complains. It was no surprise that she was using those behaviors with almost every sentence she spoke.

One day on the phone she said, “I’ve been talking to my husband, and he agrees with me that the message of Real Love is the most powerful teaching of love on the planet. But I feel like the way you talk to me is often very harsh, so compared to what you teach, it seems like you’re being hypocritical when you talk to me.”

I couldn’t help myself. I laughed out loud. “Do you realize that you just told me that the way I teach you is wrong? When you first called me, you were completely lost—completely. You had no clue how to be happy or how to interact with any other human beings. But now you’re telling me how to teach you. And you just called me a hypocrite. This is exactly the problem you came to me with: being right and controlling everybody.”

“No, I didn’t call you a hypocrite.”

An important teaching point here: When people are genuinely interested in learning, they don’t begin their sentences with the word “No.”

“Oh yes, you did, and now you’re arguing with me—again.”

“No [that word again], I said that it SEEMS like you’re being hypocritical. And I said I FELT like you were being too harsh.”

When we’re afraid, we attack people far more than we realize. But, paradoxically, we want to attack without losing the approval of the people we’re bludgeoning with our words. So we cloak our attacks in words that make us look good. I asked Rita how she would feel if I said, “I feel like you’re an idiot, and you’re screwing up your life, and you’re not listening to a single thing I’m saying to you.” I paused and continued, “Would you feel better because I used the phrase ‘I feel’? Would it really help if I said that I didn’t really say you ARE an idiot, just that I FEEL that way?’”

“Well . . .” She was obviously uncomfortable.

“No, it would not help. You use phrases like ‘I feel’ and ‘it seems’ so you can look good while you’re attacking people. I don’t care if you do that with me—not a problem. But it turns out that it really does bother your husband and children and others when you do that—a lot. You have to be honest about your attacking before you can begin to make different choices—choices that will be happier for you and your relationships.”

After a lifetime of pain, we protect ourselves instinctively, automatically, and quickly. We do this unconsciously, but deep down we somehow know it’s wrong, which is why we often hide it. We have to begin to identify the lies about our unloving behaviors, or we’re condemned to repeat them, with results that we do not want.

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