How many times have you heard someone say to you, ‘You made me feel ___ ?’ Or have you ever recognized yourself saying it to someone else? What’s wrong with this statement? Let’s identify the blame that inherently lives within this assertion. When we say this to another person, we are saying that we have zero control over our emotions and the other person is to blame for how we feel, which communicates to the other person that they must change in order to fix how you feel…or else. This is not their job, nor their responsibility. But so often we fall into this trap. It happens more often than I think we want to admit. We end up unintentionally manipulating others into changing their behavior, when in fact, they may have not been doing anything wrong at all. We often can create a false narrative or assumption around their behavior and how they tried to ‘harm’ us in some way. We don’t regularly get curious about our own emotional reactions in the situation or directly ask for others to change.
Our society is filled with people pleasers, we’re often scared of the emotional distance that others can, so easily, create when we don’t agree. So, what do we do to feel emotionally close in this pressure cooker? We change ourselves, sometimes not for the better, and become less of ourselves and lose ourselves to make others more comfortable with their behavior and lack of emotional control. We take on the responsibility of everyone’s emotions around us which becomes taxing and exhausting. There’s no wonder we have so much chosen isolation and ‘social anxiety.’
So how do we slow things down and really take responsibility for our emotions and triggers? As a trauma and couples’ therapist, I find it critical to educate others on their emotions and how to start really tuning into how they are feeling. Too often I hear people say things like, ‘I feel like you don’t listen’ or ‘I feel like they don’t understand me,’ etc. Look at these statements, are those feelings? No. They are thoughts. We frequently use our thoughts to describe our emotions rather than the actual place they come from…our physical bodies. Take a minute to think about where you feel your emotions. Do you feel sad in your head? What about when you feel disappointment or helpless? What about when you feel anger, joy, or compassion? These physical sensations are really the key into our souls and what we are really emotionally experiencing.
Below is a graphic that I have clients fill out to help them work backward to start reconnecting to their bodies. We frequently get stuck with the back and forth of thinking and then doing. Too often we try to get ourselves to do something differently or thinking something more positively, but unless we do the work to understand our emotions and how we feel them, we won’t get far in changing our outcomes. Try this the next time you feel out of control, feeling resentment, anger, fear, or sadness. Notice how your behaviors and thoughts can be the ‘red flags’ to help you slow down and start to recognize your emotions and physical sensations.