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We grow up hearing things like this, “He made me so angry that I hit him” and “She made me feel bad, so I didn’t go to her party.” For decades I’ve been correcting clients when they make statements like this because they’re, quite frankly, ridiculous. Exactly how can someone get inside your head and make you feel something? If that were possible, I’d get into heads everywhere and make people feel better. Hell, I can’t even “make” my clients feel better and I’m a therapist. Believe me, I wish I had the power.
Then why do we so often make this statement and what do we mean by it. First off, how do you think people can make you feel something? How could they plant an emotion inside you? Can anyone really do this? Or now that you’ve stopped to think about it, do you see how mistaken you’ve been?
We say that people “make” us feel a certain way or do certain things in order to avoid taking responsibility for our feelings and behavior. I know because I’ve done this duck and cover maneuver myself a time or three. After all, if we say that someone “made” us do something, we’re off the hook. And when we’re blameless, we not only don’t need to feel badly about or consider our words or actions, we also don’t have to do anything about them. How can we when we aren’t responsible for them? What a nifty excuse for staying the same.
Now, I’m not saying that some cunning people don’t know exactly which buttons to push to get a certain response from you. They do and many take advantage of knowing what will upset you and then do that exact thing. These are not people you want to spend any time with because when people try to manipulate us, it’s very likely they’re going to poke and prod long enough to get a reaction out of us that we don’t want to have. Which is when we usually say that someone “made” us have the reaction.
So, let’s be clear: we’re all responsible for what we say and do no matter that someone provoked us to say or do it. Just because they’re not nice people, we can’t absolve ourselves of accountability. What we can do is realize how easily we’re triggered and know what triggers us. Make a list of things that do anything from piss you off to enrage you and accept that you allow yourself to react to them—not because you’re a terrible person but because you’re human. Also, because you have childish, unhealthy people around you who like to provoke you and get satisfaction from seeing you react poorly.
Don’t buy into you or anyone “making” someone feel or act a certain way. Call yourself and others out when it happens and set the record straight. And be proud you did!
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