I was working with a male client recently who has a very difficult in-law to contend with. I kept reminding him that her behaviour towards him wasn’t personal which he found helpful. He shared an acronym with me he had learned about in a business seminar called QTIP which stands for:
QUIT TAKING IT PERSONALLY
As soon as I heard it, I knew it was a keeper and that I would share it with anyone who might benefit. What I have learned repeatedly and is sticking now that I am in my ‘fierce fifties’ is this:
Nine times out of ten (and sometimes even ten times out of ten), when we find ourselves feeling hurt, angry, or disappointed by another person’s behaviour, we have made up a false story about why they did what they did and come to the conclusion (also false) that they meant to upset us.
I can’t tell you how many therapy sessions revolve around a scenario like this. Let me give you an example:
Anisha found out via Facebook that her friend Sam contracted Covid and is in quarantine at home and off work for the week. She texts him to say how sorry she is to hear this news and asks how he’s holding up.
A full day passes and she hasn’t heard back from him. The story she makes up in her head about why he hasn’t contacted her:
He’s ashamed because I yelled at him last week about seeing a big group of people and called him reckless for doing so and warned him he could contract Covid. He’s mad at me for lashing out at him.
Later that day:
Oh crap. Now I feel really guilty for doing that. Poor Sam. Now he’s got Covid and he’s ashamed and hiding from me and is all by himself to sit with this…
Even later that day:
Oh my God- maybe he’s in the hospital on a ventilator and nearing the end. I’m such a crappy friend. Now I won’t be able to see him before his early demise…
You get the idea…
By this time, Anisha has worked herself up into a heightened state of anxiety and lowered mood and was ruminating excessively about the situation- not a good outcome.
Then a text from Sam arrives which says:
Sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier. I just found your text. I wasn’t feeling great and slept for 16 hours. Thanks so much for reaching out and checking in. I’m feeling a lot better now and look forward to when we can go for a walk and catch up.
So in the end, Anisha made herself quite miserable for over 24 hours based on a false version of reality which she created based on her feelings instead of actual facts. I’m sure you can relate.
My husband and I were watching a Brene Brown video recently where she described a game that she and her husband play at the dinner table which we’ve adopted and absolutely love! She calls it:
What story do you think I just made up about why you said such-and-such today?
I can’t tell you how much laughter we enjoy as a result of this simple game. Try it for yourself and have a good old belly laugh! Humour is the antidote to worry and stress.
I will end with a great video I found outlining these concepts. Here are the takeaways I am using:
Our brain produces 50,000 thoughts a day and of those, only 10,000 of those are positive! 80% of what we think are negative thoughts.
It’s not about me. Look at the other person’s intention.
Seeing the positive intention of another requires a lot of discipline and training.
When you are being criticized and it hurts, chances are big that this is rooted in your childhood.
Things other people do and say can hit a raw nerve and that’s when you have to be empathic towards yourself.
Maryanne Pope says
Great blog! So very true about the danger of making up stories to explain another person’s behaviour. As per your example about Sam in this blog, we can waste an awful lot of precious time & energy creating dramatic stories in our heads – that ends up being completely wrong! Thanks so much for sharing your insights…I love binge reading your blogs 🙂
Esther Kane says
Thanks so much for the feedback! So glad you found it helpful!