How to Protect Yourself from Other People's Problems

Sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here.

---Line by Jack Nicholson in the movie As Good As It Gets

Most of us assume our suffering is the result of what someone else does or does not do. This is a form of self-victimization and it will keep you stuck in a muddy quagmire. This turns into quicksand, and will eventually drag you down and suffocate you. You MUST get out of this type of thinking! You must take full responsibility for how you are feeling. No one can control your feelings except you.

Other people have the power to "activate" feelings within you, but you do not have to give them a chair to sit on. Sensitive people are even more vulnerable to OPP's (Other People's Problems). When people come to you with their problems, your natural inclination is to want to help solve the problems. Your "reactive mind" kicks in and you feel a pain in your gut. Part of being human is to feel something for other human beings, and want to improve our world. Until you choose not to be controlled by these dynamics, you will feel that you have been "hurt" by other people, just as you will continue to feel that you have been hurt by other people in the past.

Even if you change the circumstances and people in your life who appear to be causing your pain, that pain will recur: the pain of abandonment, the pain of betrayal, the pain of letting go of an important relationship, or being abused or being judged. Further, when you look back on your experiences, you will see that already this pain has recurred many times in different situations, different places and with different people. Eventually you will see that YOU are the common denominator. You are the thread that connects. Judging others, blaming others, trying to punish others and gossiping about others will not ease your pain or prevent it from returning, because your pain is not caused by others. It occurs only when the dynamic is activated within you.

The good news is that each time the dynamic (your pain) is activated, for example, anger, abandonment, humiliation, you will have another opportunity to look inside. You will again feel the magnetic attraction of fear, the powerful pull of judgment, the need to prove that another person is causing your pain. But you can choose to experience the interior source of your pain-instead of blaming it on others.

Every time you break your usual pattern, you melt the wall between you and others, and can connect from an open heart. Eventually, you will recognize that each of your emotions is a free-standing experience, independent of what others do or say-and that the activation and reactivation of painful dynamics will end when you intervene consciously in this process. You will recognize the difference between "reacting" and "responding."

This is the first step to creating authentic power. When you think others are doing something to "hurt you," it is simply an illusion. It is based on your past trigger points of pain. Once you bring this to your conscious, it will no longer have power over you. The goal is to have power over your own thoughts and emotions, and not allow others to control your thoughts or feelings. Every time you feel that pain in your gut, stop and say to yourself, "This is not about him/her, it is about me, and I can control it."

What's Really Wiping Out All Your Energy?

I think you already know the answer to this question. Yes, you are right. It's OPP's. You take it all on - soak it up like a sponge. People are a constant interruption in your life. You just get started on a project you've been wanting to do for a long time. Then the phone rings. Yes, someone needs you NOW. So you drop everything and help them out. You somehow think that helping, worrying, talking, fretting, stressing, etc. will make it all better, but it won't. All it does is cause you to be tired, irritable, annoyed, angry and depleted.

The best way to avoid other people's interruptions (aside from real emergencies) is to protect yourself by making your own plan with your own appointments. Plan your day in advance and write down everything you need/want to do that day on your calendar, with appointment times. This way, if someone asks for something, you can say, "I have an appointment from 2:00 to 4:00," or, "I'm free from 4:00 to 5:00." Treat your appointments (plans) as important as doctor appointments. You don't need to tell people what your appointments are for. That's your business. They just need to know you're busy - you already have plans.

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

---Oprah Winfrey