So you’re walking down the street and someone throws a shoe at you.
Except that you weren’t walking down the street and they didn’t really throw a shoe at you. Also — as it turns out — there is no shoe.
But never mind that.
What really happened is that someone made a particularly condescending remark about something you did or said or wore or thought or admired.
Maybe not though. Maybe they just gave you a total asshat response to something you posted on a forum (yes, that happened to me last week).
Or maybe they did something.
And that something makes no sense because how could they not know that this something would be completely disastrous for you. Ugh.
Whatever it was, you’re feeling hurt.
And upset. And angry. And scared. And indignant. And annoyed.
Okay. So. You know what? We’re going to pretend that it was a shoe.
This unknown someone threw a shoe at you. It hit you in the back. Not hard enough to knock you over or do any damage or anything.
But it hurt. A lot. And it surprised you. It was startling and painful and unpleasant.
Where am I going with this?
There are always going to be some people who are going to throw shoes. I wish that weren’t the case, but that’s just the way it is.
And given that this is true, it’s useful to know about the Five Primary Reactions To Shoe Throwing.*
*Thanks to my teacher Orna Sela in Tel Aviv for the shoe-throwing metaphor.
The Five Primary Reactions To Shoe Throwing.
The “It’s all about me” Reaction.
- Man. Not again. People are always throwing shoes at me.
- I don’t know what it’s all about but if a shoe is going to be thrown, damned if it isn’t going to hit me right in the back.
- It’s not fair. Everyone hates me. Everyone is against me. I have all the bad luck. Everything bad happens to me.
- I probably deserve it, though. I must have done something to provoke all this shoe-throwing.
- And now this shoe-throwing has ruined my day and made everything even worse than it already was.
This is most of my clients when they come to me. It’s most of my blog readers. It’s a lot of people. Common reaction.
The “It’s all about them” Reaction.
- What the hell kind of person would throw a shoe at someone?
- What the [insert especially impressive stream of cussing here] causes someone to pick up a shoe and throw it?! What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with everyone?
- Why do people have to be so mean and stupid and hurtful?
Same thing. A lot of my clients, students and blog readers. Me a lot of the time. And most of the people I know. Again, very common.
The Consciously-working-on-my-stuff Reaction.
- Wow. Someone just threw a shoe at me and I’m feeling hurt and angry and upset.
- This is me feeling hurt. I’m allowed to feel hurt. This is my stuff showing up in response to having a shoe thrown at me.
- My anger and hurt and frustration? My stuff.
- The shoe-throwing itself? Their stuff.
- I am reminding myself that this shoe and the throwing of it are not about me and actually have nothing to do with me.
- The throwing of the shoe is all about the shoe-thrower. It’s about their personal stuckification, which — oh, look! — just set off mine too.
- Okay, so that’s my stuff interacting with their stuff. And then if we put my stuff and their stuff aside, there’s still the part about how it’s not okay to throw shoes at people. So let’s deal with that.
- I can say to this person, “Hey, it’s not cool to throw shoes. It hurts when you throw a shoe at me.”
- Because yeah, even though I can’t do anything about their stuff, I can still stand up for myself.
- And I can keep working on my stuff.
This is where I try to be most of the time. This is where many of my Kitchen Table program people are at now after several months of working on their stuff with me. Totally worth working towards.
This kind of approach changes your life and it changes the life of the people around you. Plus it’s very Fluent-Self-ified.
The Advanced Consciously-working-on-my-stuff Reaction.
The Advanced reaction? Same as the above with just one difference.
- This time you’re not upset and you’re not angry.
- You’re still interacting with yourself in a conscious, loving way. You still recognize that the shoe-throwing is all about them. You’re still empowered to tell people that they can’t throw shoes at you.
- But it doesn’t even occur to you to take it personally. Because it’s so obviously not.
This one is my goal. This is where I want to be. And maybe one day it will happen.
It’s not where I am yet, but that’s okay.
The Impossibly-enlightened Reaction.
- There is no shoe.
I’m not even slightly there.
In fact, I’m not even sure I’d ever want to be there. It might even be a purely theoretical option.
But if we’re just following the movement of possible reactions and taking this movement to its logical extension, I’m pretty sure this is where someone could (again, theoretically) end up.
It’s not that I’m especially invested in moving people along from one reaction to the other.
And I’m also not interested in chastising people for being where they are. That doesn’t seem like it would be especially helpful.
Here’s the part that excites me:
I like watching how our relationships with ourselves change when we start paying attention to the fact that there are different types of reactions available to us.
I like being able to notice that hey, I’m slipping into a certain reaction as a default. And then I remember that the very act of noticing this is altering my relationship with myself and the people around me.
Because when I’m noticing, I’m not in it. And when I’m not in it, I’m more likely to be patient with myself.
And when I’m patient with myself, things don’t hurt.
Dear, dear Havi,
This concept has been an incredible help to me this past week, after a very large shoe….like a Size 18 Combat Boot…hit and took me completely by surprise. Knowing better than to reply immediately, I sat around, and cried and licked my wounds for a few days and then remembered reading this post by you some time ago. I looked it up and it quite frankly just picked me up and turned me around. I’ve read it about 25 times in the last 2 days and finally feel I am ready to respond to the shoe thrower.
Yesterday, a friend who had no idea what I was going through, stopped by my house with a bouquet of spring flowers…just because. Wow! Nice! It really cheered me up! I went on and on about how grateful I was that she had brought them. She said “It’s just a couple of daffodils and some quince” ?????.
She had no idea what I was talking about as I babbled on about how the flowers were a lot like the shoe….both coming in a completely unexpected way, etc. So I sat her down at the computer and showed her this post. She TOTALLY got it then and said “Hey, just like I didn’t know what a huge impact bringing these flowers would have on you….that “Shoe Thrower” might not have known either.
Anyway, it got me thinking a lot about Random Acts of Kindness and how tossing Flowers at people might balance out some of the Shoes that are thrown. So now I’m thinking about tossing (metaphoric) Flowers at people (and hoping they’ll catch them!) I’d like to throw some at you! But the Flowers in this case are actually one of my prints. I’d like to send you a print, but I can’t decide which one, so if you will go to http://picasaweb.google.com/dianearcher.com/MixedMediaReproductions# and pick a print, I’ll send it out to you pronto. I was going to say you could email me your choice, but I’m remembering you are on email sabbatical. So, maybe you could have your assistant let me know in some way, or maybe I can print this out and mail it to your house…..Yes, I’ll do that too, since I’m not even sure the link will show up here for you.
Hoping there are lots and lots of flowers and less shoes in your future, Diane
Regarding the possibility that “there is no shoe”…reminds me of something I just read from Pema Chodron – “Turning arrows (shoes?) into flowers”: http://books.google.com/books?id=BvVzYXmrGtIC&lpg=PA40&ots=-By-hmfPtx&dq=pema%20chodron%20arrows&pg=PA40#v=onepage&q&f=false
It was a year ago today that I quit my job, having been struck by one of those flying shoes.
“Shoe throwing? Their stuff. The throwing of the shoe is all about the shoe-thrower….”
I have been stuck in the unfairness of it all but reading those words that it was his stuff, or their stuff, has turned it around for me.
Their stuff – let it go and don’t make it my stuff.
My stuff – much clearer to me from having been hit by that particular shoe.
A friend gave me the link to this post as I just had a particularly nasty anonymous shoe thrown at me. Great timing and I love your take on it.
Thank you – I was just trying to sort through the, ‘Was I really that?’, ‘Was it my fault?’, ‘Why is she like that?’ when a friend showed me thus blog and boom, sorted. It’s so easy to forget these things … Thank you (and her) so much …