When I was growing up, a popular song on the radio was Don’t Bring Me Down by the Electric Light Orchestra. The lyrics described a guy who was frustrated with a woman for the various things she did and didn’t do.
You got me running going out of my mind
You got me thinking that I’m wasting my time
Don’t bring me down
No, no, no, no no
I’ll tell you once more, before I get off the floor
Don’t bring me down
It’s a catchy song – if you know it, you’re probably singing it to yourself right now – and ended up being ELO’s biggest hit.
That song title could also be our collective mantra for how we want others to treat us.
My life is important, my time is precious, my feelings matter. So, please treat me nicely, and most importantly, don’t bring me down.
That’s our message to others around us and the world at large.
And if others – and the world – heeded our decree, our lives would be much more peaceful.
There’s just one little catch.
The premise is completely wrong.
No one, no thing – nothing – can bring us down. Except ourselves.
We’re so conditioned to believe that when we’re not happy, it’s often because of something that someone else did or didn’t do. And if we can get others to agree with our victimization, then that belief is further reinforced.
You did this to me. It’s your fault.
The part we fail to see is – the part none of us wants to look at – is that we do this to ourselves. No one can bring us down unless we’ve first chosen to be brought down.
In the powerful, challenging words of A Course in Miracles, “Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated.”
While we are not responsible for what other people do and say, we are completely responsible for the meaning (story) we give it. And when we believe other people to be the source of our unhappiness, then we’re choosing to perceive ourselves as unfairly treated – as victims.
As the Course further offers, “Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions.”
That is not to say that there aren’t hateful people committing vicious, sometimes heinous, acts of physical and emotional abuse. There are. But the meaning we give the facts is completely up to us. We give everything all the meaning it has for us.
So as we find ourselves being brought down by the happenings of the world – and other people – let’s use those experiences to remind us that we choose the interpretation. And then as quickly as possible, we can make a different choice – and experience a completely different outcome.
Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore this challenging concept of giving everything all the meaning it has for us – and how we escape the trap of believing other people are the source of our unhappiness. I look forward to seeing you then.