“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Have you ever caught yourself saying: “He/she made me so angry!”
The operative word here is “made”. Think about it. When you say someone made (or makes) you angry, did they really? Did they hold you at gunpoint and say “be angry, or I’ll shoot!” Do they have mind control super powers? Did they take over your subconscious, manipulate your neurotransmitters, and produce the adrenaline for you? Highly unlikely. No one can make you cry. No one can make you happy. No one can make you sad. No one can make you feel better. No one can make you feel guilt, shame, anger, or disappointment. No one can make you feel any way. Only you can do that.
When it comes to emotions and outcomes in general, there are two sides: Cause and effect. Action = reaction. When you are on the “cause” side of the equation, you are in the driver’s seat. When you’re on the “effect” side, you become the victim.
When you blame someone for your mood, thoughts, feeling, and emotions, you are playing the victim. You are allowing them to have power over you. Say for example, you’re in a relationship with a verbally abusive person. The phone rings at 10pm on a Friday night. You see their name flash on your called ID. You know they’ve been out drinking. Your heart starts pounding, and you start mentally preparing for the verbal assault you know you’re about to receive. This is a response that developed from years of being on the receiving end of this behavior. But does it really have to touch you? Can you put on your Wonder Woman bracelets and bat them down, word by brutal word?
As much as we hate to admit it, we are where we are in life because of the decisions we’ve made, either consciously or unconsciously. Most people don’t want to accept that they are the cause of their own outcomes, especially when they’ve been so directly and closely exposed to vile human beings. They become programmed to a certain response, but the response is still nevertheless a choice. There’s always another response to choose.
When we take ownership of how we respond, we are taking full responsibility for ourselves. Response + ability = our ability to respond to situations, events, or people in the way we choose to respond. We can choose to respond in anger, or we can choose to respond with calm.
When we get angry or hurt by something or someone, we are actually responding to the perception and internal representation that we’ve created through our mental and emotional filters. These are our triggers. This is why some people respond differently in a crisis than others. Some are cool, calm, and collective while others have a complete meltdown.
You could say: “Well, when Jane said or did X, I immediately got super angry.” You felt like you couldn’t control it. It’s an automatic trigger response. Is it really Jane’s fault you got angry? Did she force you to have that response. She could say or do the exact same thing to someone else, and they might have a completely different response. Why? Because they have a different perception of what happened. You are responding to the perception of the situation, not the person who caused it.
And, the way to choose to respond is totally up to you. You might not feel like you have any control over it, but you do. Say you’re driving to work. You’re in a really good mood, then someone cuts you off, slams on their breaks. You almost hit them, and now your coffee is all over your lap. You’re PISSED!!! You want to get out and beat the guy, but because you don’t want to run the risk of an assault charge, you angrily go around him and give him the middle finger salute out the window. Now your day is officially ruined, and it’s all his fault. Is it really, or could you have chosen a different response?
Or maybe you have that person in your life who knows how to push your buttons, you know that guy (or gal). They know exactly which triggers will get a certain reaction from you, and as soon as they push BOOM! They get their desired response, and you let them have it.
But, does it have to be that way? Absolutely not. The trick is to pay attention to how you feel then decide how you want to react to it. This takes a great deal of self awareness and control. If you’re stuck on auto-pilot when you start to feel angry, hurt, disappointed, or wronged, you are putting them in the driver’s seat of your life. You are allowing them to have control over you and your emotions.
By paying more attention to your feelings and gaining control over them, you can detach from them, objectify them, and choose how you want to respond.
“But, it happens so quickly! How can I get ahead of them like that?”
By getting ahead of them. No, you can’t predict when someone will cut you off on the freeway, but you can make that split decision on how you want to respond to that incident. You can allow it to grow and fester and have a bad day, or you can stop it the moment you feel it. You can say to the emotion: “Nope, I am not going to let you take hold here and ruin my day.” If you have to communicate something about the act then maybe say something to yourself like: “Well, that was a jerk move on his/her part, but I’m looking forward to an awesome day ahead!”
Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and attempt to blame them on someone else. Your emotions are not their fault or their responsibility. They are not making you feel a certain way. You are choosing your feelings and how you respond to them. You could still feel angry, but you can choose to respond in a calm, rational manner, and when you do, the anger dissipates. It’s when you respond in anger that you continue to be angry. You’ve allowed it to fester in your mind. You begin to stew on it. You have a full on mental argument with the offending party. You are now going down the rabbit hole of anger and irritation, and you can’t seem to pull yourself out of it.
But what if you side-stepped the rabbit hole altogether? You can feel the anger coming on- and yes, it typically only takes a split second, but you can cut it off before it begins to smolder and turn into a four alarm fire.
Here are some ways to better control your emotions and choose a better response:
- Meditate first thing in the morning — when you meditate at the beginning of they day, it sets a calm tone for the day. It heightens your focus and self-awareness. It makes you better equipped to handle adversity.
- Accept response-ability — accept that your feelings are entirely in your hands. When you do this, you take back control. You get to decide how you want to react.
- Reflection — think back at a time when you got angry at someone. How did it go down? What did you say or do? How did you handle it? Now, think about the feeling when it first arrived. How could you have made a conscious decision to respond differently?
- Shut up the ego — Someone did something, and you suddenly became angry. Your ego said: “Go ahead. Get angry! Your feelings are totally justified. They *made* you feel this way. They totally deserve your wrath!” So, you ran with it. Sure, there’s always that sense of instant gratification that you get by letting loose on someone who’s done or said something that caused a negative feeling to stir in you, but that’s only temporary, and sometimes — most of the time — you feel like a complete ass later because you didn’t have more self-control. Then the guilt and shame settles in. It’s a viscous cycle.
What if you decided to ignore the ego when the feelings first started coming on and you said: “Nope. I am not going to feel this way. This feeling doesn’t serve me or my well-being. I am going to calmly let it go.” Try it next time you hear that evil voice in your head pushing you to react in a fruitless attempt to punish the offending party.
By taking responsibility for your reactions, you eventually gain control over your emotions. You begin to develop new emotional habits and a better response system. Your perception of what once would have made you really angry will change, and you will see it in a different light. You are in control of how you feel and how you respond.