We are still on the topic of looking at ways of staying happy and drama-free every day. One of the ideas that has “revolutionised” my perception of life in what concerns how I am or am not affected by exterior events is encompassed in either of these two phrases:
It’s not about you and don’t take anything personally.
There’s a larger picture than that which concerns us and people have intricate motivations that go way deeper than we can perceive.This helps us let go of needs and expectations to control events in order to stay happy and balanced. I came across a very visual metaphor that offers a perspective on how our perception works and why we cannot make everything about us. Below is an excerpt from the book The Fith Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Jose Ruiz.
Imagine that you are in a gigantic mall where there are hundreds of movie theatres. You look around to see what’s playing and you notice a movie that has your name. Amazing! You go inside the theater and it’s empty except for one person. Very quietly, trying not to interrupt, you sit behind that person, who doesn’t even notice you; all that person’s attention is on the movie.
You look at the screen and what a big surprise! You recognise every character in the movie – your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, your beloved, your children, your friends. Then you see the main character in the movie and it’s you! You are the star of the movie and it’s the story of you. And that person in front of you, well, it’s also you, watching yourself act in the movie. Of course, the main character is just the way you believe you are and so are all the secondary characters because you know the story of you. After a while, you feel a little overwhelmed by everything you just witnessed and you decide to go to another theatre.
In this theatre there is also just one person watching a movie and she doesn’t even notice when you sit beside her. You start watching the movie and you recognise all the characters but now you’re just a secondary character. This is the story of your mother’s life and she is the one who is watching the movie with all her attention. Then you realise that your mother is not the same person who was in your movie. The way she projects herself is completely different in her movie. It’s the way your mother wants everyone to perceive her. You know that it’s not authentic. She’s just acting. But then you begin to realise that it’s the way she perceives herself and it’s kind of a shock.
Then you notice that the character who has your face is not the same person who was in your movie. You say to yourself, “Ah, this isn’t me,” but now you can see how your mother perceives you, what she believes of you and it’s far from what you believe of yourself. Then you see the character of your father, the way your mother perceives him and it’s not at all the way you perceive him. It’s completely distorted and so is her perception of all the other characters. You see the way your mother perceives your beloved and you even get a bit upset with your mum. “How dare she!” You stand up and get out of there.
You go to the next theatre and it’s the story of your beloved. Now you can see the way your beloved perceives you and the character is completely different from the one who was in your movie and the one who was in your mother’s movie. […]
After seeing all these movies, you decide to return to the first theatre to see your own movie once again. You look at yourself acting in your movie but you no longer believe anything you’re watching; you no longer believe your own story because you can see it’s just a story. Now you know that all the acting you did your whole life was really for nothing because nobody perceives you the way you want to be perceived. You can see that all the drama that happens in your movie isn’t really noticed by anybody around you. It’s obvious that everyone’s attention is focused on their own movie. They don’t even notice when you’re sitting right beside them in their theatre! The actors have all their attention on their story and that is the only reality they live in. Their attention is so hooked on their own creation that they don’t even notice their own presence – the one who is observing the movie.
People live in their own world, in their own movie, in their own story. They invest all their faith in that story and that story is truth for them but it’s a relative truth because it’s not truth for you. Now you can see that all their opinions about you really concern the character who lives in their movie, not in yours. The one who they are judging in your name is a character they create. Whatever people think of you is really about the image they have of you and that image isn’t you.
Now it’s easy to understand why there is us so much conflict between humans. The world is populated by billions of dreamers who aren’t aware that people are living in their own world, dreaming their own dream. From the point of view of the main character, which is their only point of view, everything is all about them. When the secondary characters say something that doesn’t agree with their point of view, they get angry, and try to defend their position. They want the secondary characters to be the way they want them to be, and if they are not, they feel very hurt. They take everything personally. With this awareness, you can also understand the solution, and it’s something so simple and logical: Don’t take anything personally.
This metaphor has helped me put things in perspective when I was caught up in my own and other people’s personal drama. It has been a stepping stone on the path to maintaining a balanced mindset on a daily basis. As you would expect, I do forget and have slips regularly, but I try not to forget to come back, again and again … and again.