Return to sender

Have you ever felt unfairly attacked? Maybe someone says something to you, something without any basis, something unfair.  We know it’s untrue, unfair but nonetheless it causes us to feel upset, hurt, and we carry it around, maybe for a few hours, a few days, even for years. Well, how about trying to return it to the sender. 

I’m not talking about retaliation, but rather a recognition that some feelings are not ours to begin with.   Often when people attack us unfairly they are expressing something inside them, maybe stress, maybe hopelessness, something they can’t tolerate.  So they thrust the feeling onto others, its unpleasant, they can’t hold it. It comes out, out perhaps at you.  The problem is that we can let this penetrate us, we take it on, suddenly we are feeling irritated or angry. We are feeling what they have projected into us.

Understanding that this doesn’t belong to us allows us the capacity to send it back outwards or perhaps even for it to bounce off us like a force field.  What we are talking about here in psychotherapeutic terms is our personal boundary.   

Developing an awareness of our personal boundary allows us to move through life without being penetrated by other people’s negative emotions. This starts with an awareness of what’s ours and what is theirs.  Why not try this the next time you are attacked?  Take a breath, ground yourself with your breath, then question who was really angry or attacking? was it me or was is them.

Often therapeutic work can involve unravelling some of these penetrations from the past, those that have been stuck in us for a long time.  Those that we then confuse with being ours, being part of us. Some of the work in therapy is to put this back where it belongs, to return it to the sender.