Toby was a 3-year-old rescued Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross. He was usually extremely sweet, friendly, loves cuddles and tummy rubs. He was the sort of dog who would come up to you, tail wagging, pushes his muzzle on your legs as if to beckon, “Your job is to play with me now!”
However, when you started to stroke his head and ears, his attitude would change. He would begin to growl and if you continued, he may snap. This usually brings confusion to anyone who was interacting with him for the first time. It was revealed that his previous owner had hit him on his head repeatedly as a method of training when he did something wrong. His reaction was a result of his past experience.
In life, our behaviors and reactions are usually a manifestation and representation of our past experience. When you observing a child interacting with a new emotion for the first time, it is usually of curiosity and wonder instead of wariness and caution. For example, he may approach a stinging nettle as he would a dandelion. It is only when he has been stung once, then his next interactions may be met with caution and possibly, fear.
We can reflect this in our interactions with others. When we are happy with others (interacting positively), it is usually because our past experiences have shown us that the results would be positive. When we are not so nice to others, it is also usually because our past experiences have taught us that the outcome was not very pleasant.
With this in mind, it brings understanding when someone (could be family, friend, or stranger) is being horrible to you, it may not be because of you. It may be his past bad experience that has brought about this resultant behavior. Hurt people hurt people. That person is usually hurting inside, hence merely expressing his hurt with his interactions with the outside world. You just happen to be there.
Do you know how tiring it is to be angry, resentful, and hurtful to others? Have you experienced the energizing lightness of happiness, contentment, peace, and joy when you interact positively with another? If you were to choose, what would be your choice? Certainly, it would be more sensible, logical, and beneficial to choose the latter. Why would anyone choose to exert more energy that results in horrible feelings by being nasty to others? Perhaps, they are in pain. They are hurtful because they are hurting inside. They cause pain because they are in pain. They are angry towards you because they are angry inside (usually at themselves).
You should not take it personally. It usually has nothing to do with you. You may be a factor that escalated their feelings but the fundamental core of the issue usually has nothing to do with you (unless you intentionally went about to cause harm which means that you were probably harmed before). When someone is not able to forgive others, usually they are not able to forgive themselves. (Self-forgiveness is so important. We are only human after all and will err.) To know all is to forgive all. When a stranger shouts at you, it probably has more to do with his past than your present actions. It is the same when it is someone you know.
Remember when someone is being nasty to you, possess the inner confidence to be able to see past the immediate reaction, find strength to delve deeper, and understand why he is reacting that way. Fortify your internal strength and know that no one can bring you down without your permission. If you possess the skills, find out what is causing the pain in that person to make him react that way. After all, as mentioned, it is more energizing to be pleasant than nasty. The after taste of both reactions will be amplified in the person who expresses them. If you are nice to others, you feel better inside. If you are horrible to a person, you feel more horrible inside.
By not reacting superficially to another’s less-than-desirable behavior and delving deeper into the underlying reason, we would not only feel better about ourselves and also possibly help the other. People crave to be understood.
By the way, Toby loves his head being rubbed now!