By Ana Jovicic, for Summersalt Yoga
Feelings… You get fired, you feel discouraged. You meet a great guy who treats you like a princess, you feel beautiful. Your friend doesn’t answer your calls, you feel frustrated.
Who’s responsible for your feelings?
As children, we were taught that consequences follow every action. You got punished for certain behaviour, and you surely didn’t deserve a chocolate for everything you did.
As our span of behaviour and relationships grow in complexity, we tend to forget that lesson. Sooner or later we relearn how this “action vs. consequence” equation works in real life, at least in theory. We figure out what it means to take responsibility for our own choices, albeit usually the hard way.
However, not so many people realise that the person responsible for their feelings is in fact themselves, no matter the circumstances. Yes, you may have experienced aggressive behaviour, harsh criticism or neglect from another person at some point in your life. Probably you said that he or she “made you” feel this way or that. The thing is, all those situations were triggers, but the cause of every feeling was within you.
The simple logic behind this assumption is: different people react differently to the same stimulus, whatever it is. Your response to certain words, events, situations and even phases of life is a culmination of your experience thus far; your beliefs, values and expectations. The way you respond to an external stimulus determines the chain reaction of your subsequent feelings.
If you choose to respond by taking responsibility for your own feelings, you are taking the first step in finding your way towards joy and inner peace. Anything else will take your mind circling around the problem. Be assured that taking the responsibility for your feelings when they are triggered by someone else’s behaviour does not mean that you condone or justify that behaviour. It simply means that you embrace your emotions, whatever they may be, without pointing the finger at anyone else.
So what happens when you DON’T take responsibility for your feelings? How does it manifest in your behaviour? Usually it fits into one of the following categories:
You’re feeling bad but you’re simply not doing anything about it. When it comes to relationships, you express your feelings and share your thoughts with another person but the motivation is faulty. You’re probably not looking for honest, emotional support or a shoulder to cry on. You’re handing the burden of your own emotions over to someone else; thereby not taking responsibility for your own feelings. This is how you rob yourself of learning and cut down possibilities for both personal and relationship growth.
- Blame game
It’s everybody’s fault but yours. Your parents were neglectful during your childhood, your partner doesn’t put enough effort into your relationship, your friend is ignoring you, your colleague is insolent, the work system sucks. Endless scenarios of blaming other people for your feelings serve as justification for your reactive behaviour towards them. We can be quite creative in the ways we subconsciously punish others for the way we’re feeling! Distancing, threatening, ignoring, distrusting, expecting too much, disparaging…. Notice how every response derived from blame focuses on another person instead of yourself and your own feelings.
You’re actually feeling great, maybe better than ever. Nevertheless, it’s still an issue if you’re placing the credit for your pleasant mood on something/someone other than yourself. Your girlfriend “makes you” feel special, you’re waiting for your vacation to feel “alive again”, “because of him” you’ve learned how to feel deep romantic emotions. However, when you lose the external origin of your pleasant feelings, you’re on your own. In truth, you always were. What happens here is that all those nice sensations go away with the person/thing you were overly attached to. That is when you start learning that the source of true joy can come only from within.
What can you do to change this?
So how do you do it? How can we react to this crazy complex world, fully aware that the source of every emotion is within our care?
Let it all out
Acknowledge your feelings, embrace them, and don’t run away when they become uncomfortable or take you by surprise. Your spectrum of feelings is actually a guide to the life you want to live. The key is to decide what are you going to do with that emotional information – repress feelings, act on them, or mindfuly acknwoledge them. It will all pass, lessons will be obtained, and you’ll be thankful that you let yourself feel it all without playing the avoidance game.
Disengage from hurtful interaction
If you’ve passed that distressing point of befriending your core feelings, you’ve probably discovered that there is a sadness below your anger, or a fear hidden behind your frustration. When you become aware of that, there will be no urge for revenge, no need for blaming others or being forceful in a situation. You’ll just want to take care of yourself. That usually involves lovingly disengaging from toxic interactions and getting back to your unmet needs.
Loving your Self and your Life
Ask yourself how can you maintain your boundaries? What do you need for emotional healing? What kind of support do you crave? What circumstances make it easier for you to feel gratitude and joy, to connect to yourself and others? Maybe you can invest time in your favourite hobby, maybe you can take to your mat and explore yourself through the flow of yoga. If you’re feeling truly lost, maybe you can do the most courageous thing ever and seek help.
What the hell even happened here? Ask yourself what’s under the surface of that distressing situation: Why were you engaged in a certain type of relationship? Were you the one who let something painful happen to you? What were your expectations based on? What are your common “hot buttons?”
Use the opportunity to learn about yourself and shift your focus towards that unexplored territory within you. Given that we are constantly changing and evolving, there is no way that you have already discovered everything. So don’t just lean in, dig in and have some fun along the way.