Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Exactly WHO made you feel like that?

So there you are, furious with someone, anyone will do, but probably someone close to you as our family are the people who aggravate us the most. You yell at them for upsetting you, you might even throw something, slam a door, scream you hate them, or even worse hit out. And when you've done all of this you'll wonder why they are so hateful, annoying, out to get you, or whatever.....

Well I've got news for you, they are not any of those things! (I'll come back to them later)

What you need to look at is your own responses to other people.

When a client comes to see me for therapy, at some point I'll say to them.... 'Your in therapy today and I'd like you to cry NOW!' Without fail the client looks at me as if I'm mad, and usually smiles uncertainly at me. I respond with 'look your smiling at me!' And go on to say 'if you were crying and I told you to stop right now, then you'd think I was cruel and callous.'

By this time the client is certainly bemused and at this point I tell them 'I'm a therapist and I know everything there is to know about feelings, but I can't make you cry, and I can't make you stop crying cause I say so.'

I then tell them I will go further with my example, and choosing a piece of their clothing I'll tell them they look awful in what they are wearing. I then go on to explain what I am doing. I suggest that I DO NOT have any power over their feelings. That there feelings are theirs alone. And that if they were feeling confident, they might tell me to mind my own business, as there is nothing wrong with what they are wearing. If on the other hand they are feeling vulnerable they may think to themselves, 'Oh I'm so useless I can't do anything right, even my clothes are bad.'

What I move onto discussing is, personal responsibility. I point out that all I have done is, been rude and offensive about their choice of clothing. I go on immediately to say there is nothing wrong with whatever I seemed to criticise, before they get a complex about it! Which without fail makes the client smile, as I say it with kindness. But I make the point that I cannot make them feel anything. That however they choose to respond to my rudeness was their choice. I take them back to when I asked them to cry. And point out that although I know what I'm talking about I couldn't make them cry. If they wanted to cry or not, that was their choice and nothing to do with any power I had over them.

And why do I do this.... because we all spend far to much time blaming other people for how we feel. It is really difficult to take responsibility for our own emotions and our own responses.

Road rage is a perfect example. Lets say, you get up late, you've run out of coffee, your shirt needs ironing, there's a big meeting at work. So you leave the house feeling angry and stressed. You get in your car and your stuck behind some old codger doing 30 miles an hour. You get absolutely furious with the silly old sod!

Next day, you wake up on time, there is coffee, the ironing fairy has sorted out your shirts, there is no big meeting and you leave the house in a good mood. You get behind the same old slow driving codger, and you don't care.

In road rage you blame the other person, not taking into account how you feel. You blame them for all the things going wrong in your life. When in actual fact they are not the old codgers fault at all! They are yours, as you have a choice, always, of how you are going to respond and feel at any given moment.

And it is starting to take this on board that liberates us. We are responsible for our own feelings. We make choices about how we react. We can affect how we react to others, based on how we behave in the first place.

The buck doesn't stop with us, more it starts with us. People treat us how we treat them. If we are kind, then we get it back. If we are mean, well guess what....

The minute we understand that the world responds to us, and not us to the world then life becomes a damned sight easier. Think about pre-menstrual feelings. Three weeks of the month we women just get on with it, then suddenly one week of the month we wonder why everyone is so mean to us all of a sudden. Hey guess what, they are not. We,in that one week have raging hormones that make us behave erratically, and the people around us respond to that, not us to them. There is a definite answer to the chicken and egg here. We get upset first, and behave accordingly.

Taking responsibility for ourselves is life changing. In that we can take a deep breath when anything is said to us, and think for a moment how shall I respond, what am I feeling, do I need/want to blame the other person for making me feel something? Or shall I be a grown up and know that I'm in charge of myself and how I respond. Even if that is to throw toys out of the pram, that's the choice. No-one makes us feel anything.

Cause if they did, I'd be far more powerful than I already am, as all my clients would be wearing what I told them, eating food I prescribed, watching TV programmes I suggest, and crying whenever I said they had to! And do you know what, none of them are doing that at all.

What they are doing instead is starting to be responsible for themselves in all areas of their lives, which is totally empowering and stops then needing therapy.

Finally to go back to the point from the beginning, of course are family are annoying! You can't live with anyone for any length of time without knowing the shortcuts to winding them up! But if people take on board personal responsibility, then they choose to be wound up or not, however much someone else is trying to wind them up.


trousers said...

Yes to all that, in short.

Paula said...

Yes to all that and more: this topic is an extenxion to todays therapy. Thanks. Hugs

lakeviewer said...

And we are getting this free? Double good. You are so wise and knowing.

Merry ME said...

Such wisdom at the end of a week of "family". An outsider told me this morning I'm too sensitive. What does she know, I thought at first. But all day long I've been wondering. Am I too sensitive? If so why? And what to do to harden up my skin?

Great post. Thanks.

Pam said...

Wonderful advice Mandy.Great example about the old codgers creeping along in peak hour traffic....a test of what pushes buttons to be sure!

Angela Recada said...

I'm so glad your words didn't disappear into the ether today!
This is such good advice, I only wish I would remember to remember it whenever I need to. I do need to remember it today, though, so thank you!

kj said...

you've written a great version of 'i'm the boss of me!"

you are so right: in free countries no one can hurt, abuse, or get to you without your permission.

and yet, mandy, i can't help thinking about feelings caused by grief, betrayal, loss. we're still and always free to have our own feelings, to react in our own way, but sometimes the timetable moves on its own for a while.

terrific post, ms. fire byrd. xoxo

nitebyrd said...

I'm going to need to read this a couple more times and really THINK about it. Your post couldn't be more timely for me. Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means family all of whom annoy the shit out of me. Perhaps, by reading and understanding your post, I'll be able to sort it all out before the big day.

speck of dust said...

I think it's really great that you are moving your clients towards not needing therapy. I have a friend who has been in therapy YEARS and I don't think it's about learning anything about herself anymore so much as a place to go and kvetch. Which is fine but I think she's dependent on it and it's preventing her from resolving difficult issues with friends and family.

It took me SO LONG to get the concept that other people can't make me feel emotions. And I'm still working on observing feelings as they arise and matching them to thoughts and questioning it. It's difficult! But it becomes FUN!

In anger we all lash out mentally and judge and blame others. That's because we're human. But I don't believe only a few special, spiritual people can conquer this. I believe we all can, with practice.

Great post Mandy x

PS: I wouldn't have reacted well AT ALL to being criticised about my clothing, even as an example. During therapy I disassociated so easily that I actually imagined my therapist had criticised my appearance. I was completely in the past in my head reliving abuse and was cut off from reality. I only understood afterwards when I wrote him an angry letter about what he had said to me and he hadn't said any of it. He didn't know it had happened at the time either.

Anonymous said...

Singing along with James Brown

Sage said...

Perfectly said xx

Miranda said...


Ronjazz said...

Personal responsibility... versus blaming someone else. This is really a personal mantra with me. Yes, I have my moments of weakness, as we all do. But responsibility is something you can control, which is a much better alternative to solving our problems. Wouldn't you agree?

Minnie said...

I love your new masthead pic, Mandy - beautiful.
Excellent post. How true!

Rach said...

What wonderful food for thought you produce, thanks Mandy...xx

tattytiara said...

All so true, and so well said. Coincidentally, I just came to your blog after reading this:

"Your self esteem is not eroded by what others say to you, but by what you say to yourself, when the other person has walked away."



Have I got a talent for finding smart people on the internet or what?

(And thank you so much for all your lovely, mesmerizing, multi-syllabic musings re my new template!)

Mel said...


But I don't WANNA be responsible!!!!!

I can even get on my OWN nerve. LOL

(((((((( the byrdie ))))))))))

Yup.....I agree.
Of course, it took forever for me to embrace the idea......I'm a tough sell.
I'm also VERY much a control freak.
And I'll be DANGED if I'll simply hand over that 'power' to others!
(therein lay the selling point! LOL GO figure!)

Lori ann said...

this is the very heart and soul of it all.
we can and do have complete control over how we choose to respond to anything.
it's a freeing feeling, your right. I think it may come easier with age, learning goes on throughout our lives.
a lovely thoughtful post dear friend.