Living The Four Agreements: The Gift of Taking Things Personally

The Four Agreements

Living The Four Agreements: The Gift of Taking Things Personally

“Every time we take something personally it is an opportunity to explore what exactly has been touched within us. By becoming aware of old beliefs that cause pain, we take responsibility for healing past hurts.” — 

Last week I took something personally in a spectacular way.

I was talking with a friend on the phone about the end of my marriage when they said something that caused a nuclear reaction in my heart. I simultaneously felt crushed, furious, devastated, and betrayed by their words.

My inside voice said, “How dare they! I can’t believe they would say something so hurtful to me. Don’t they know how unconscious they are being and how much pain I am in right now?”

My outside voice said to my friend, “This is not supportive! What you are saying is not helping me feel safe or seen right now.” Well, I tried to say that clearly. My response to them came out with a lot of sobbing and cursing and anger and hurt, along with sharing my current vulnerability and needs.

It is not that what they said was not the truth, or that they were trying to be mean to me. I took their words personally because I was in pain and what they said touched my inner hurt so strongly it overflowed in a tsunami of emotions.

Sometimes when we take something personally it reveals a depth of feelings and a solidity of old beliefs we weren’t aware of. If we are willing to be courageous and explore our inner world with the volume of our blame, shame, or judgment turned down, then a wave of emotion can be a cleansing and clarifying force, uncovering hidden treasures buried in the sand of our unconscious.

The beautiful thing about this interaction with my friend is that it brought us closer together, and it brought me closer to myself.

By not taking my emotional reaction personally, my friend was able to listen to my outburst with an open heart. His openness reminded me to not take my own emotions personally, but to listen and peel the layers back to seek the beliefs beneath my feelings. Some of what I was experiencing was simple grief of loss, pure and simple. And there were also a handful of beliefs  that I took note of to clean up later.

Once the wave of my reaction receded, we apologized to each other; he for saying something that touched a hurt place within me, me for my impressive outburst of emotions and words. We both understood he was not responsible for my pain, I was. We both had compassion for my reaction, and for how challenging and tender love and loss and being human can be.

To turn taking something personally into a gift, start by being impeccable with your word. Tell yourself the truth. It is only by honoring where you are that you can create change. Don’t try and pretend you are not taking it personally, but increase your awareness and stay conscious of what exactly is happening in your mind and body. Let the intensity of the emotion rise and fall naturally without adding fuel in the form of justification, denial, or story. In other words, don’t take your thoughts or your emotions personally. It doesn’t help to say, “I shouldn’t be taking this personally!” The truth is, for whatever reason, you are. Get excited to see why.

This week practice not taking anyone’s emotions personally, including your own. Imagine you are a surfer, learning to ride whatever emotional waves come your way. Your surfboard is your witness self. Be curious about what causes you to take something personally and fall off your center. When you get tumbled by your own or others emotions, take a deep breath, smile, and get back on your board of awareness, knowing that you don’t have to take the ever changing ocean of emotions and thoughts personally.


Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent.

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