Love 'em Where They're At
Whenever you observe someone who is obviously struggling and stuck in their stuff, you likely want to help. Or you sit in your corner watching them with your opinions floating through your mind on how you would do it better. It can be frustrating when you are sure you know how they should improve their situation but they just...won't...listen. You give advice, counsel, sympathy listening, even to the point where you scold them into a behavior that you are positive will fix their problem.
And then you wonder why they don't want to hang around you anymore. Ahem.
When you notice a behavior or condition that another is experiencing and it triggers a response in you, whether you want to help or that it bothers you, you are likely connecting with an aspect you are struggling with inside yourself. There is a theory called psychological projection:
Wikipedia: "Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others."
If you study this theory, you will understand the value it can provide in self-examination and improvement of your own behavior or beliefs. Are you irritated by someone who is chronically late? You may want to look at where you are denying being late yourself. Are you upset by how friends claim they don't have time to do things with you, especially the things you want to do? Perhaps you are not making time for others yourself? Take a moment to look and feel what's there—they could be doing you a huge favor by showing up in your experience and mirroring the things you believe to be true about yourself. And those beliefs, especially if they make you feel bad, are flawed and therefore may be better reframed.
We all have stuff, and when we get honked off at someone else—whether they are close to us or a stranger—learn to love 'em where they're at. You'll be better for it, and in a subtle projection-esque way, you will be loving yourself and allowing yourself to have a positive growth spurt in your own belief systems.
You can make the phenomenon of projection work for you. The next time you catch yourself observing or judging another and feeling irritated or frustrated, stop for a moment and:
- Think about what exactly you're upset about. Write about it to expand on it and get it on paper. For example: "I'm upset my nephews don't call me. I'd like to hear from them and be more involved in their life because I love them."
- Look at what you wrote and see if there is any correlation to something you are struggling with yourself. Write about that. "Where and how am I not feeling loved in my life? Why am I not the one picking up the phone or texting them to check in? Am I making my story about how I am unlovable more real and reinforced by keeping myself stuck in this situation but blaming them for lack of attention?"
- Reframe what it is that you notice and turn it into a positive. "I love my nephews. They are of a different generation and appreciate different things about relationships. And frankly, when we are together, they are always happy to see me and appreciative and we have a great time. I know that my relationship with them is good and I can always reach out and talk or text them anytime I am thinking about them. They love me and I love them and we're always good."
- Look back at that person who triggered you in the first place and practice loving them where they're at. "I love my nephews and I love seeing them enjoying their lives. They are busy working, they have friends and they seem to be healthy and happy which is all I ever wanted anyway. I thank them for showing up and letting me know that I need to practice loving myself more and more every day, and that I am thankful to have them in my life. I love them where they are at, and I love me where I am at."
Sheryl Crow said it best in her wonderful song, Soak Up The Sun, where she sings: "I'm gonna tell everyone to lighten up." My only addendum for you is to "lighten up and love 'em where they're at—especially yourself."