“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu
Have you ever found yourself blaming other people for how you feel?
Maybe you think your partner makes you angry, your boss makes you stressed, or your friend’s behavior makes you upset. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that external events and other people are responsible for our emotions.
But what if I told you that this way of thinking is actually a fallacy?
The truth is, you are the one who is making yourself feel a certain way, not other people or events.
In this article, we’ll explore how taking responsibility for your emotions can lead to greater control and a more fulfilling life.
Own your emotions to master your personal effectiveness and develop your emotional intelligence. To put it another way, if you don’t own your emotions, you risk allowing external factors to control your well-being and relationships.
3 Options to Deal with Your Feelings
In the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns explains how we have 3 choices when it comes to how we deal with our emotions, such as anger.
The traditional view of dealing with anger involves two options: turning it inward or turning it outward.
Turning anger inward is believed to be unhealthy and can lead to guilt and depression.
Turning anger outward is considered the healthier option, but it may not work effectively, and people may perceive you as erratic.
The cognitive solution offers a third option, which is to stop creating anger altogether.
This option involves developing control over your feelings and gradually reducing excessive irritability and frustration that negatively impact your life.
Just Who is Making You Angry or Upset? You Are.
Who is making you angry?
Who is making you so upset?
Who is hurting your feelings?
You are the person responsible for your own emotions and reactions to a situation.
This is an empowering belief. You can take control of your emotions. You can choose your responses.
It emphasizes the idea that we have control over our own thoughts and feelings, and that we shouldn’t always blame external factors for how we feel.
The belief that external events or other people are the cause of our anger is a common misconception.
According to Dr. Burns, the bitter truth is:
“You’re the one who’s creating every last ounce of the outrage you experience.”
In reality, other people cannot make us angry, and we are the ones who create our own anger. When we blame others for our negative emotions, we are simply fooling ourselves.
While it may seem natural to attribute our anger to external events, doing so only perpetuates the problem.
Instead, we must recognize that we have control over our own emotions and take responsibility for how we react to the world around us.
It’s Your Interpretations that Make You Angry
There’s plenty of genuine unfairness and cruelty in this world.
Dr. Burns shares some examples:
“A pushy teenager might crowd in front of you in line at the movie theater. A con artist might sell you a fake ancient coint at an antique shop. A ‘friend’ might screw you out of your short of a profitable business deal. Your boyfriend might always show up late for dates in spite of his knowing how important promptness is to you.”
Now matter how outrageous or unfair others might appear to you, they do not, never did, and never will upset you.
The reality is that you’re the one who’s responsible for creating every last bit of the negative emotions you experience.
Does that sound like heresy or stupidity to you?
Dr. Burns writes:
“Anger, like all emotions, is created by your cognitions. As you will note, before you can feel irritated by any event you must first become aware of what is occurring and come to your own interpretation of it.
Your feelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the event itself.
It is not the negative events but your perceptions and thoughts about these vents that create your emotional response.”
Yes, negative things happen, but you create your feelings.
Dr. Burns writes:
“You are certainly right that plenty of negative events go on every day, but your feelings about them are still created by the interpretations you place on them.
Take a careful look at these interpretations because anger can be a two-edged sword. The consequences of an impulsive outburst will frequently defeat you in the long run.
Even if you are being genuinely wronged, it may not be to your advantage to feel angry about it. The pain and suffering you inflict on yourself by feeling outraged may far exceed the impact of the original insult.”
Own Your Feelings
To own your feelings means taking responsibility for your emotions and recognizing that they are your own, and not caused by someone else.
It involves acknowledging and accepting your emotions, rather than denying or suppressing them, and taking action to manage them in a healthy and constructive way.
When you own your feelings, you are in control of your emotions and can choose how to respond to situations, rather than reacting impulsively.
It also involves communicating your feelings clearly and honestly with others, without blaming or attacking them for how you feel.
Choose to Respond vs. React
“Choose to respond” means that you make a conscious decision about how you will react to a situation or an event, rather than simply reacting based on your emotional impulses or habits.
By choosing to respond, you take a moment to pause, consider your options, and make a deliberate choice about how to proceed.
On the other hand, “reacting” typically means responding impulsively and without thinking things through, often driven by emotions like anger, fear, or frustration.
When you react, you are more likely to say or do something that you may later regret, and you may even escalate the situation.
Choosing to respond instead of react can help you take a more thoughtful and constructive approach to challenging situations. It allows you to be more in control of your actions and to communicate more effectively with others. It can also lead to better outcomes and stronger relationships over time.
Stephen Covey, in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” talks about this concept as being proactive instead of reactive. He argues that proactive people focus on what they can control and take responsibility for their choices and actions.
They do not let external circumstances dictate their behavior and responses.
On the other hand, reactive people tend to blame others and external circumstances for their problems, and they allow their emotions and impulses to control their behavior.
Covey emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions and choosing to respond in a way that aligns with our values and goals.
How To Avoid the Blame Game
To avoid playing the blame game when it comes to blaming people for making you angry, upset, or hurt, it is important to take ownership of your own feelings and reactions.
Rather than placing blame on others, focus on your own reactions and responses to the situation. Here are a few strategies:
- Practice self-awareness: Recognize and acknowledge your feelings and reactions to a situation. Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions.
- Take responsibility: Remember that your reactions are your own responsibility. Don’t blame others for how you feel. Own your feelings and reactions.
- Reframe the situation: Instead of focusing on who is to blame, reframe the situation and think about how you can respond in a positive and constructive way.
- Use “I” statements: When discussing the situation with others, use “I” statements to express how you feel and avoid blaming others.
- Focus on problem-solving: Instead of blaming others, focus on finding solutions to the problem or situation at hand. Take a proactive approach to resolving the issue.
By avoiding the blame game and taking ownership of your own feelings and reactions, you can cultivate a more positive and constructive mindset that will help you navigate difficult situations with greater ease and resilience.
How To Let Somebody Know They Impact You Negatively?
What’s the best way to let somebody know that they impact you negatively? What tools or frameworks help with this?
Use “I” Language Instead of “You” Language
One effective way to let someone know that they are impacting you negatively is to use a communication tool called “I statements”. This approach involves expressing your feelings and experiences using “I” language instead of “you” language.
For example, instead of saying “You always make me feel angry”, you could say “I feel upset when you do/say that”.
This approach allows you to take ownership of your emotions and experiences while still communicating the impact of the other person’s behavior.
DESC (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences)
Another useful framework is the DESC model, which stands for Describe the behavior, Express your feelings, Specify what you would like to happen, and Consequences.
This model allows you to communicate assertively and clearly about the impact of someone’s behavior while still being respectful and solution-focused.
Here is an example of using DESC in a workplace setting:
Situation: A team member has been consistently missing deadlines, causing delays in the project.
- Describe: Start by describing the specific behavior that is causing the issue. For example, “I’ve noticed that you’ve missed the last three deadlines for your deliverables.”
- Express: Express your thoughts and feelings about the behavior. For example, “This is causing delays in the project and making it difficult for me to meet my own deadlines.”
- Specify: Specify what you want the person to do instead. For example, “In order to keep the project on track, I need you to commit to specific deadlines and communicate any potential delays in advance.”
- Consequences: Explain the consequences of not changing the behavior. For example, “If we continue to miss deadlines, we risk not meeting our project goals and potentially harming our team’s reputation.”
By using the DESC model, you can communicate your concerns in a clear, non-judgmental way and work towards finding a solution together.
It’s also important to choose the right time and place to have this conversation, to be specific about the behavior that is causing the negative impact, and to listen actively to the other person’s perspective.
Remember, communication is a two-way street, and it’s important to approach these conversations with a willingness to hear the other person’s point of view and work together to find a solution.
Don’t Let Other People Push Your Buttons
I remember asking my Negotiation Strategies instructor, Dr. Ken Sylvester, what was the most important skill to develop from a personal development perspective.
He said, “Don’t let other people push your buttons.”
The phrase “letting other people push your buttons” means allowing someone else’s words or actions to trigger a strong emotional response or reaction in you.
It implies a lack of control over one’s emotions and a vulnerability to being manipulated or influenced by others.
When someone “pushes your buttons,” they are typically doing or saying something that touches on an area of sensitivity, insecurity, or past trauma, causing you to react in a defensive or emotional way.
Cultivating self-awareness and emotional regulation can help reduce the power others have to push your buttons.
Take the High Road
One of my mentors would always recommend, “Take the high road”, whenever a situation went south. In his example, it avoided spiraling down, or escalating issues into no win situations that do more harm than help.
What’s an example of taking the high road when it comes to owning your emotions when you feel somebody wronged you in some way or made you angry or upset?
Taking the high road when it comes to owning your emotions in a situation where someone has wronged or upset you means choosing to respond in a mature and respectful way rather than reacting with anger or blame.
Here’s an example of how you could take the high road in such a situation:
Let’s say a colleague at work takes credit for an idea that you presented during a meeting, and this has made you angry and upset. Instead of lashing out at your colleague or talking about them behind their back, you could take the high road by owning your emotions and addressing the situation directly with them.
Using the DESC script, you could say something like: “When you presented my idea as your own during the meeting, I felt frustrated and disappointed. I worked hard on that idea and I would have appreciated it if you had given me credit for it. Moving forward, I hope we can work together more collaboratively and give credit where it’s due.”
By taking the high road in this situation, you are asserting your feelings and boundaries in a respectful way, while also acknowledging that you are willing to move forward and work collaboratively with your colleague. This approach can help to diffuse the situation and prevent it from escalating further.
How to Practice Owning Your Emotions
Own your emotions. This is a powerful reminder that we are responsible for our own emotions and reactions, rather than blaming others for our feelings.
Here are some ways to practice:
- Take ownership of your emotions and stop blaming others for how you feel.
- Practice mindfulness and self-awareness to recognize when you are creating your own anger.
- Use cognitive techniques such as the Anti-Heckler technique and DESC to manage and communicate your emotions effectively.
- Embrace a growth mindset and focus on personal development to gain control over your feelings.
- Challenge your beliefs and perspectives about anger to break free from the cycle of blame and frustration.
Get the Book
In the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns recommends cognitive therapy techniques to help individuals change their negative thoughts and beliefs that lead to negative emotions like anger and depression. He teaches readers to identify their negative thoughts and to challenge them by examining evidence that supports or refutes those thoughts.
Dr. Burns also recommends using behavioral techniques such as relaxation and exercise to reduce stress and negative emotions. Additionally, he suggests developing social skills to help individuals interact with others in a more effective and satisfying way, thus reducing interpersonal conflicts that can lead to anger and other negative emotions.
Overall, the book focuses on helping individuals take control of their emotions by changing their thoughts and behaviors, rather than relying on external factors or circumstances to improve their mood.
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