Did you know that we choose everything we do? We choose all of our emotions and behaviors at any given time. Some of you may find yourselves quickly on the defensive with that question. In our society, it is common for us to blame others for our feelings and behaviors. How often have you heard or said this: “You make me so angry,” or “Look what you made me do!” We expect certain people in our lives to “make us happy.” But the truth is, only we can do these things. Only we can make ourselves happy or angry or do anything. Because our emotions and our actions are under no one’s control but ours.
Therefore, if we feel happy it’s our own fault. If we feel miserable, that’s our own fault too. It’s time we start taking responsibility for our feelings and actions and stop giving away our power to someone else. All we can give or get from another person is information. If someone says to you “you’re making me angry” the information they are conveying is that you are doing something they wish you wouldn’t or perhaps you’re not doing something they wish you would. They are telling you that they have chosen anger to deal with how they feel about your actions. At this point, you have a set of choices. You can agree with them and choose to believe that you did, in fact, make them angry. You can decide not to agree with them, but still change your behavior to maintain peace. You can stand up for yourself, argue back, point out that they have chosen to be angry and could choose something else. Your reaction is completely in your control and completely out of theirs.
It’s unfortunate that we often choose to react to statements such as “you’re making me angry” with other statements designed to gain control of the conversation or situation. For example, when a child misbehaves, you may choose to be upset about that. Then you may choose to yell at that child and threaten them if they don’t change their behavior in the future and the result is a damaging of your relationship. It may be a subtle scratch, but there is damage done. As a result, that child may feel afraid to try new things or come to that parent with problems for fear of being threatened and yelled at. Again, the parent wants the child to stop doing something the child wants to do. The parent wants to control the child’s behavior and ignore the child’s ability to choose for his or herself. Now, sometimes this is necessary such as when a child is doing something dangerous. But most times, the parent is trying to stop a behavior they have chosen to be wrong or chosen to feel annoyed by.
So going forward, I challenge you to listen to yourself. When do you use words that assign blame for your feelings and behaviors to others? When have you tried to assert control over someone else's choices? When have others done the same to you?