Criticism is a part of life, and yet so many people have a hard time receiving it and they often experience a lot of hurt in the process. Even if the critics intention is to be constructive, it can be experienced as painful.
I often say that awareness is a powerful thing, so I thought I’d bring some awareness to the topic, laying out why the sensitivity is there, and howÂ NPAÂ can change the experience completely in a healthy way.
Why Are People So Sensitive When It Comes To Criticism From Others?
You might be surprised to learn that the sensitivity actually comes from defence. Criticism threatens an identity, or sense of self and as we become more attached to an identity, it becomes rigid and brittle. If you imagine your skin became rigid and brittle and then someone came up and poked it – it might well split, and then OUCH!
Taking things personally is literally attaching to an identity – you say â€˜thatâ€™s me that isâ€™, or, equally as confining, â€˜thatâ€™s NOT meâ€™. For example, a 5 year old whoâ€™s told by his Dad: â€˜Youâ€™re funny!â€™ may take that on as a fundamental character trait. Literally taking it as â€˜Funny: thatâ€™s who I amâ€™. Perhaps he grows up and builds an identity all around that idea, maybe even makes it a career! Then someone sayâ€™s â€˜youâ€™re not that funnyâ€™ and his brittle skin gets poked! Of course, different people respond differently in different situations, but he may lash out, or withdraw – either way he feels pain.
A WayÂ To Stop Taking Things Personally
Essentially, The NPA Process allows people to stop taking things personally. Now, most of us realise that taking things personally is a painful thing but few have any idea HOW to NOT take things personally – so thatâ€™s pretty awesome by itself!
But what I have come to realise is that â€˜taking things personallyâ€™ is threaded much more deeply and subtly through our human psyche and is the fundamental mechanism for creating our experiences – both wonderful and painful.
NPA has now had a huge impact on the lives of people from all over the world, from all walks of life and in a huge variety of situations. So, it turns out, that the NPA Process is an amazing tool for clearing painful experiences quickly AND allowing more expansive and joyful experiences into our lives.
Running with the brittle skin metaphor for a bit, you could say that NPA gives you healthy skin – supple yet strong, sensitive and able to feel a vast range of sensations, yet in no way tender and raw. Someone can â€˜have a pokeâ€™, but it doesnâ€™t hurt, thereâ€™s nothing to defend and it can be seen for what it is; just a perspective.
So, Should We Take NOTHINGÂ Personally?
People are often surprised when I tell them that NPA does not subscribe to the idea that taking things personally is always bad. In fact it acknowledges that fundamentally itâ€™s how we experience anything at all!
What causes us pain and suffering is that brittle-ness I spoke of earlier – that attachment to, and defence of, a transitory idea of who we are. NPA offers a â€˜multiple perspectiveâ€™ approach which I teach on the Saturday ofÂ The NPA Expansive WeekendÂ and inÂ NPA: The BridgeÂ and this can bring a great deal of fluidity and relief to peoples sense of identity.
NPA is interested in helping people notice and shift those places where brittleness and therefore pain and suffering has come about from taking things personally, where either they are clinging to something that wants to pass, or resisting something that wants to come into their life.
A Note On Clarity & Action
People sometimes misinterpret this perspective and think that I am suggesting a path of passivity that a) never acknowledges that sometimes the critic is just being an arse, and b) doesn’t allowÂ space for the criticised person to have a powerful response.
So here’s what I’ve noticed…
There isn’t one formula for a response that is appropriate in all situations. The reports I get, and my own experience tells me that NPA (and not taking things personally generally) brings a tremendous clarity and presence to the situation. From that clarity and presence strong affirmative action seems to arise naturally.
This is not the powerless, angry action of someone who is in defence and feels like ‘the victim’, it’s the actionÂ of someone who knows who they are, supports their values and yet is open to self-evaluation. It’s the action of someone humble enough to know that they are not perfect and others may have a point, yet knows their boundaries and are willing to assert them. Walking away is definitely an option. Passionate discussion of different perspectives is definitely an option. This is a HEALTHY place to come from and time again I see NPA bringing clear and healthy action into peoples lives.
If you’re someone who feels sensitive to criticism, then thank God you’re here. If EVER there was a tool for the job, NPA is it for you!
So here’s what I recommend. Get REALLY into NPA. Practice, Practice, Practice The NPA Process! Master it, play with it, just do it! BuyÂ NPA: The BridgeÂ and listen to it over and over. And/or come to a seminar, join the NPA Community!
Each time you do a process youâ€™ll be loosening up your stuck identifications, letting go of some yukky stuff, or letting in some yummy stuff, but also training in the non-personal perspective â€“ this is one of the fundamentals of letting the Non-Personal perspective come alive in you.
Having the non-personal perspective â€˜aliveâ€™ in you brings an aikido like emotional and mental agility in difficult situations – like when criticism comes your way! Your brittle skin will be nourished, hydrated and re-conditioned with healthy, wholesome non-personal goodness. It’s a wonderful thing 🙂
That is a good article Joel, of help to many sensitive people I should think. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Michael – I appreciate your comments 😀
Hi Joel – I have come back to re-read this article. I have copped some criticism from a person I have been around for a while – myself. That has arisen without a specific trigger I can recall, seems I have taken things personally somewhere and need to let it go. This article is a help. 🙂
Glad you came back Michael and that the article has helped you. It’s an often missed concept… we all know it’s a good idea to not take ourselves too seriously, but we rarely consider not taking ourselves personally… good for you for noticing 😀