A little while ago I came across a woman asking for help in an online forum. She explained how she was struggling because her significant other was bringing her down by consistently focusing on the negative: complaining, criticising, moaning. When she said anything, her partner got offended and upset, which made the situation even worse. The woman felt completely trapped.
Remember Rule Number Six
I felt for them, I’ve been there myself. But what popped into my mind was, ‘Remember Rule Number 6’. I’m not sure where this rule originated, though it features in Ros and Ben Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility. The story goes like this:
Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing some important issue. Suddenly a man bursts in, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister looks at him and says, ‘’please remember Rule Number Six.’’ The man calms down, apologises and leaves. A little while later a woman interrupts them. She is also absolutely furious about something- until the prime minister reminds her about Rule Number Six, and she too calms right down and apologises. The visiting prime minister cannot contain his curiosity, and asks if the other prime minister will please share with him the secret of Rule Number 6. ‘’Certainly’’, he replies, ‘’Rule Number 6 is don’t take yourself so damn seriously.’”
How many times do we get ourselves all worked
up about something, rather than simply stepping back a bit and seeing the funny
There is part of everyone, sometimes referred to as the Ego, and which I like to call the Inner Troll, which just loves to get stuck into feeling upset or angry. Even better if it can get someone else’s Ego or Troll to join the party. Misery and stress can definitely be contagious.
But, and here’s the really important bit, you
are not your Troll, and you’re definitely not trapped. The part of you that
wants to join in the Troll party and feel stressed or angry about what the
other person is doing is not the ‘real’ you. The ‘real’ you is the part that
can step back and observe what’s happening, feel sympathy for someone whose
view of the world is so negative and maybe even see a certain amount of humour
in their constant carping and criticising.
This isn’t about avoiding conflict. If
something is happening that you feel you really have to take a stand against,
go for it [in a balanced, conscious and compassionate way, of course 😉 ] But
don’t sleep-walk into a negative situation where you both end up feeling worse
than when you started.
It takes two to have an Troll party, and if you don’t take yourself too seriously it makes it almost impossible for the other person’s Troll to pull you in. Some people’s Trolls will keep trying (and trying), but a surprising amount of the time the other person will also drop the game and start to step back into their ‘real’ selves. Which can be pretty miraculous.
So, next time you feel infuriated with someone’s behaviour, that it’s unjust or rude, or whatever label you’re giving it to justify yourself getting angry with them, try applying Rule Number Six and see what happens.