Cases are popping up all over the news of the mosquito born West Nile Virus. To be honest, it has been a bit tiring watching this particular pathogen hold a high ranking spot in the trending words of the news nearly all summer long. Being a journalist, and using the ‘trending’ words on Google News in order to shape stories, much of the time, I have been not all too keen of that spot being hogged, keeping other more interesting topics from arising, more closely related to say – immortality, suspended animation, consciousness and the like. True, these more esoteric concepts give a better lead in for the ideas which hold my immediate attention and so it is that I attempt in this article to explain why taking things personally could potentially be worse than the West Nile Virus.
Perhaps it’s a stretch, but many news stories are. So let’s take a bite and see what happens.
The West Nile Virus is a mosquito carried virus which originated in the West Nile region – hence the name. It is now showing up in mosquitoes all over the United States and now cases of people being infected with this potent virus are on the rise, according to sources. However, no one ever talks about or reports the number of people world wide who take things personally, and have their lives seriously affected, for the worse, by doing so. I mean, who started this practice in the first place? Where was the originating point of taking what someone else said or did as a personal attack on the self?
It seems as though we are ‘separate’ individuals, living ‘separate’ experiences and that what other people say or do – especially seemingly ‘to’ us has some sort of intentional attack directed at us. But is this really the case? If I tell you that I don’t like what you have done – is it really your responsibility to make me feel better or apologize for your actions? Sometimes it seems so. If you call me a name and say bad things about me – do your words have any bearing on the truth of who I am? Sometimes it feels like it.
What is really true is that we each live in a reality constructed by our own minds. We have ‘over-lapping’ realities in the places where you and I agree on what is playing out, though ultimately we can never see life from another’s perspective. The biggest error we make in this world, the most injurious action we participate in – is taking things personally. When we internalize what another person has said or done as somehow an attack on us, we forget that they can only see what is going on in their version of the story, and we can only see what is going on in ours.
Taking things personally causes great pain, it can inflame our senses, our ego, our need to try and ‘protect’ ourselves, our family and property. In a larger picture, taking things personally can affect communities and nations and the entire world. Each individual is only trying to work out his or her own personal story of acceptance. For all we each want is to feel love and acceptance inside. Whenever we display ‘negative’ emotions, language and behavior – we are simply calling out for love and for acceptance.
The West Nile Virus only displays symptoms of any kind in 1% of people who are infected. Of those infected, symptoms may include fever, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle pain and in more serious cases, neurological dysfunctions and possibly death – though it is rare. When we take things personally we may feel the same sorts of things – fatigue, body aches, heart ache, dizziness, confusion, depression, anxiety, and the need to physically, emotionally or mentally retaliate. Taking things personally has led to death in numerous cases, and not just to the one experiencing the problem, but to entire groups and nations. And here’s the clincher, 100% of people who are infected with the problem of ‘taking things personally’ will experience symptoms of some sort. One hundred percent.
Why do we take things personally? Because we are somehow attached to our own set of personal beliefs as being ‘right’, even though they are intangible and ultimately subject to change. There is nothing in the world of beliefs that is ‘real’ in so far as you can touch it and show it to someone else. Our beliefs are ideas that we define ourselves with. Collective, agreed upon beliefs make up communities, nations, religious parties and politics. When we take things personally it is because we are at the level of attachment considered ‘fanaticism’ – we define ourselves by our beliefs, to the very core.
This concept is made very clear in the recent book by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. The Five Levels of Attachment. He describes the levels at which we get attached to our beliefs from the most detached place of living from our ‘authentic self’ through various phases of identification with our beliefs to fanaticism. The more attached we are to our beliefs, the more likely we are to take things personally. The analogy he uses is brilliant – that of watching a game of sports. From the level of authentic self expression, the sports game is simply a momentary pleasure, after which you go ahead with your life and think nothing more of the experience.
At each progressive stage of attachment, the game becomes a little more important, the colors – you identify with them – and ultimately, at the fanatical level of attachment to your team, you might kill yourself or another over a loss. Applying these same ideas, Ruiz asks readers to look at religious ideas, politics, relationships, sexual orientation. I am asking the same.
When we over-identify with any idea we have the potential to take things personally when someone else disagrees with us. Sometimes violently. Yes, taking things personally is definitely worse than getting the West Nile Virus. Even if you were in the very small percentage of people who found their experience with the virus fatal, you could at least leave this plane hopefully free from blame, guilt and shame. These are the real killers – and they kill slowly like poison, affecting the world around you to the core.
On this day, let us each take the opportunity to examine our beliefs, even briefly, and decide what it is that we identify with so much that we would feel hurt if someone disagreed with us? And then ask ourselves, is it worth it? True, none of us wants to get the West Nile Virus or any other dis-ease or ailment – but sometimes the mental dis-eases we carry are worse than the physical ones.
Written by: Stasia Bliss