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Getting Out of the Gossip Circle

Getting Out of the Gossip Circle

Some of the most poisonous people come to us disguised as family and friends.
— Unknown

I grew up in a small town, moved around, and am now back in another small town. Throughout my young life I’ve noticed that gossip is always slithering around. More prevalent in certain areas, or different networks of people - but it’s there.

Why though? What does this action do? Why is gossiping a subconscious behavior, and what do we get out of it? Why do we do it?

To start, gossip is everywhere we look: In movies, women gather together talking about who has done what recently. Shows explicitly market main characters who gossip. Reality TV pushes gossip and drama. Media anchors help stir the pot of bashing others and magnifying flaws. It’s everywhere!

“Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do. There is an old expression that says, ‘Misery loves company.’ and people who are suffering in hell don't want to be alone.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

But the fallacy lies in believing that the consequences of gossip fall on other people, and I’m better than that, I don’t gossip. When in reality, you are front and center of your own personal hell, and your company is all intertwined into making that happen.

“Gossip is black magic at its very worst because it is pure poison. We learned how to gossip by agreement. When we were children, we heard the adults around us gossiping all the time, openly giving their opinions about other people. They even had opinions about people they didn’t know. Emotional poison was transferred along with the opinions, and we learned this as the normal way to communicate.”

- Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Dr. Nicole LePera, @the.holistic.psychologist

Dr. Nicole LePera, @the.holistic.psychologist

I mean isn’t it crazy that talking about people we don’t know like we know them is normal?? Anyway.

From observing adults as we learned to talk, to forging our identities through school, to traversing new places and becoming adults ourselves, gossip has left a mark in some way over the years. As children and adolescents we were still permeable sponges, piecing together the information we soaked in to create our personal roadmap to try and successfully navigate this life. That roadmap is the belief system Don Miguel Ruiz talks about in his work. And when we are younger, we aren’t simply given encyclopedia information. We are figuring out how to live and interact with other humans. Recognizing facial expressions, correlating behaviors and reactions, learning how to be funny, how to get attention, how you should categorize, who is “cool” and who is not. With all of this comes learned behavior for interpersonal relationships and the relationship with yourself. Opinions are part of the stimuli, but since our roadmap isn’t complete, most of the opinions we soak in are used as building blocks to continue forming our map since it’s hard for us to develop our own opinions yet. As Ruiz says, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” The problem is that going into our adult lives with completed roadmaps - we still believe opinions are fact. Opinions are points of view though, from different perspectives, discerned from the unique set of experiences of every individual.

“You opinion is nothing but your point of view. It is not necessarily true. Your opinion comes from your beliefs, your own ego, and your own dream. We create all this poison and spread it to others just so we can feel right about our own point of view.”

- Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Alright, what we got so far based on my opinions and other information I have taken into my own belief system:

  • Gossip is engrained into our lives, and

  • A major form of communication

  • Opinions are not necessarily based on fact

  • The Four Agreements is a priceless vessel of wisdom

Anndd time for another quote:

Consider how many times you have gossiped about the person you love the most to gain support of others for your point of view. How many times have you hooked other people’s attention, and spread poison about your loved one in order to make your opinion right?
— Don Miguel Ruiz, Janet Mills

Reflecting on situations where I helped spread poison, the rewarding feeling that came from it was connection. And like Ruiz said above, that connection was akin to support, and made me feel right about the opinion I had. I believe this is a large part of why gossip is such a large, intertwined serpent in our lives; the reward. It’s why our brain has it locked in as habit, because the reward of support makes us feel good temporarily and we want to feel it again. And it’s scary to think that the roadmap we have in front of us is wrong. So being able to connect with other humans and receive praise for sharing the imperfections of others is a way to feel secure in our lives. Well, for our ego to be secure. To make sure we feel wanted, and that we are receiving attention (Don Ruiz has more about “hooking attention" in the book I keep quoting). Participating in gossip strokes the ego oh so nicely. Too nicely…

As I have become more conscious of all this over time, there was not just the rewarding feeling of support after partaking in gossip… There was also an instantaneous feeling of sadness. Of regret. Because subconsciously gossip was the way to communicate; but after practicing compassion, and embodying a lifestyle that does not revolve around the ego - you realize gossip is real shitty.

Back to the quote from the very beginning. It can be hard to acknowledge that the people we care about the most are also the ones responsible for feeding our egos. Your close friends can be dragging you down without you or them even realizing it because it’s hard to see just how engrained all of our freaking communication and self-talk is! The social circles we form throughout our lives can become part of our roadmap.

I love the closeness of small towns, and everyone knowing everyone. But that’s also where a problem lurks: everyone talking about everyone. And because everyone is chatting with their hair dresser, their neighbor, the insurance agent, hanging out with friends… it’s like a massive game of telephone. Or when you learned about STD’s in health class and you poured water into each other’s cups and then a magical eye dropper revealed everyone ended up getting imaginary gonorrhea. One story - whether it was factual or perceived - all of a sudden turns into multiple accounts of someone’s actions. Gossip and gonorrhea are both things no one wants yet unknowingly gets involved with. Unless you keep yourself in check and stay accountable.

“We create a lot of emotional poison just by making assumptions and taking it personally, because usually we start gossiping about our assumptions… Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong. It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption, because assumptions set us up for suffering.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Gossip isn’t just an invasive species in small towns. It’s found in different groups, geographical regions… everywhere. But where I’ve experienced it the most is in smaller, country towns. And in school. Remember Mean Girls?

The terms “two faced” and “back-stabber” didn’t just pop out of thin air one day.

Two Faced: a persona that usually stems from a lack of self-identity, self-esteem, and/or cajones. The person is also usually a brown nose, as they try to please whomever they meet. In an effort to be accepted by the entire world, a “two faced” person will socially accommodate anyone they meet in an attempt to be popular and liked by everyone. More often than not, however, two faced bitches are usually covering up their assholism.
[from Urban Dictionary]

That definition is a bit harsh, but you see the similarity of what I was talking about earlier? Knowing people like us - it’s just stroking the ego, baby. We want attention, to feel liked, to be right, to be recognized. Middle and high school were probably the most treacherous battles we faced in trying to overcome those labels and three-way phone calls, but that behavior still carries on into our adult lives. Our egos still want to be stroked. To feel wanted, part of the group. Still needs affirmation that their roadmap is leading them along next to everyone else.

With all this being said, you don’t have to stay in the vicious gossip circle forever. You can live a life that doesn’t revolve around your ego.

Some things to try:

Move past denial

The first step is acknowledging that this is subconscious behavior, and that it can be changed. BOOM, already so much progress made.

Observe your environment

Be conscious in social situations and interactions. One particular day, while I was practicing being very mindful about what I said and how it could affect others, I realized that I barely said a word the whole day with the group of people I was with. It’s because I didn’t want to contribute to the gossip and indirectly hurt others. Unfortunately, sometimes gossip and superficial chatter is the only form of connection with people. But! You can help change that. A good way to start is to simply not contribute to spinning the gossip wheel. Stay true to your values as you interpret your environment to interact in a positive way.

Don’t hate the haters. Just focus on you.

Making the effort to be conscious of how you speak with others will likely lead to many changes in your life. For me, it meant creating space for myself; to think for myself, to reflect, and shift my surroundings. Just keep loving yourself and loving others. You will be able to better recognize your energy levels, triggers, and be prepared to consciously respond in a kind way rather than subconsciously spreading that bad juju.

As Dr. Nicole LePera always talks about, you are not your emotions/behavior; so the action of gossiping doesn’t make someone a bad person. Don’t hate on people who gossip. Understand they have their own battles, emotions, etc. and you have yours. Just focus on you boo boo. Keep spreading the love.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

WWBD (What Would Buddha Do?)

If you keep up with my blog or Instagram, you know I love the book A Little Bit of Buddha. It’s the perfect little companion for your Buddhist philosophy and self-development needs (link at the end for more info). I believe that incorporating Buddhist principles into your lifestyle makes life so much more beautiful.

One of the actions of the Noble Eightfold Path falls under the concept of morality, and also parallels one of the Four Agreements Ruiz explains in his work; and that is proper speech.

“Proper speech seems simple enough. It asks us to speak only from kindness and compassion, to say things that promote a more peaceful world. To Buddhists, speech and action are closely connected, and most Buddhists consider them to be different aspects of the same force. Speech arises from our thoughts, and so Buddhists are asked not only to say kind words but also to think them.”
- Chad Mercree, A Little Bit of Buddha: An Introduction to Buddhist Thought

Below are the four guidelines used for beginning Buddhists to develop proper speech:

Never tell lies

Never slander anyone for any reason

Never use rude or foul language

Never engage in gossip or mindless chatter

I believe taking a moment to think “What Would Buddha Do” can help us create new habits and be mindful of our actions, and specifically, let us lead a life without gossip. Also, I’m trying to find WWBD bracelets now. And stickers. Maybe temporary tattoos??

Good vibes

Immerse yourself in books and videos, follow social media accounts, and engage in activities that will help you transform your belief system. Invest energy into conversations that build each other up rather than poison minds. Everything won’t be bright, happy and positive 24/7. But creating a reality built on love is going to benefit your Self and the world around you forever.

Woo-hoo, good vibes all the way!

Inspo & Works Referenced:

(click the orange links for more info)

“The Holistic Psychologist” Dr. Nicole LePara
Instagram Content, Periodic Emails, Weekly YouTube videos

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)
by don Miguel Ruiz, Janet Mills
Book, Audiobook

A Little Bit of Buddha: An Introduction to Buddhist Thought
by Chad Mercree

Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat
by Kelly DiNardo & Amy Pearce-Hayden
Book & Journaling Prompts

Confidence, and Where Can I Find Some

Confidence, and Where Can I Find Some

Off-Season Reflections

Off-Season Reflections