One of the most important truths I have learned over the last year is “nothing is personal.” It was very difficult and strange for me to even attempt learning it, though, because of the severe abuse and trauma I’ve suffered. Every time I was in a session of PTSD therapy, I kept thinking, “Well, this action was done deliberately TO ME, so how could it NOT be personal? How could someone’s horrible words and actions toward me be anything other than deliberate attacks because of some flaw in me they felt they had to punish?”
What I had to understand is that most of the people who caused me trauma were just spitting words like a machine gun, having no particular target in mind except the nearest one. The bullets of their words struck me but were not always aimed at me. And even when they targeted on me and fired repeatedly, their choice to hurt others came from within themselves, and was never a reflection of my inherent badness. They were angry, they were scared, they were hurt, and so they just attacked anything and everything, for no reason at all. And tragically, as a child, I assumed each person meant every word they said about me, and that everything they said was accurate, because I had no basis for judging myself yet.
I took everything extremely personally, and soon I understood that the people who surrounded me could all go into “machine gun mode” at any moment–and when they did, I believed I deserved every bullet that hit me. After all, if I hadn’t been bad or wrong in some way, they wouldn’t have started firing in the first place. I felt guilty, ashamed, hurt…and then, I began to resent and hate them.
Over time, I found myself going into “preemptive-striking machine gun mode,” attacking before I could be hurt, slamming people so soundly with strong arguments so they couldn’t possibly retaliate. Those early shots still resounded in my head long after they were fired; I built bulletproof emotional shielding and slammed down a wall of it every time someone so much as started getting angry or aggressive. I was guarding so hard against being hurt again, and yet only getting more miserable by the year. Ironically, I had become like my attackers in every way.
What a difference a change in philosophy makes. Now, it is as if I am walking into the emotional battlefield like Wonder Woman, merely waving aside the bullets as they fly, saying, “that’s not meant for me.” Others’ hurtful words and even actions may seem personal, but they are only reflections of a hurt inner self–those who attack are wounded children hiding behind bulletproof glass, as I once did. Because I know their shots are scattered and not aimed, it is much easier to brush them aside. No matter if it’s a Facebook post, a news article, a conversation, or whatever, I can rest in knowing that even if it feels targeted at me, it’s not. I can stand down, at last.
This doesn’t mean that my PTSD is gone; I still must take care of past wounds and relieve their symptoms. But this philosophy is helping me avoid new wounds and become braver every day–something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again. ❤️