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.

Completely understandably.

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.

The point.

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.

The Fluent Self