September 11, 2023 - Marisa Guerin, PhD
Today’s theme from the wisdom of Thérèse is about “not taking things personally.” She practiced this form of emotional self-discipline to make space for her inner freedom, so she could choose the loving path without her ego getting in the way. But what exactly does that mean?
When we take things personally, we act as if whatever is going on is essentially about us. We put ourselves at the center of a drama someone else is creating and allow ourselves to be invaded by the feelings that have been stimulated. Perhaps we jump in and take sides in a debate that other people are having. Or we may feel flooded with excessive distress or guilt over a national crisis. Perhaps we get tangled up in the angry or anxious feelings of a friend or relative, forgetting that the situation they are facing is theirs, not ours.
Not taking these things personally means not letting the emotional energy of the other individual or the situation take over our inner experience. Not taking things personally means keeping an inner distance, a capacity to observe what we’re feeling and to make a decision about how or whether to act.
Noticing our feelings and, when we can, taking ourselves out of the center of a drama requires patience, practice and a willingness to not give up on ourselves. What we know from her writings is that Thérèse learned to move from being at war with her feelings, to being curious about them, to reflecting on the truths they might be telling her, and finally to creatively responding to a situation with as much self-possession as she could manage.
Inner freedom is the heart quality that invites our best self to take the lead, released from the grip of upsetting feelings. Gently setting aside my own fussy ego (“Me! Me! It’s about me, right?”) and bringing my calm presence and loving attention to another is a marker of following Thérèse’s Little Way.