“You have no control over what the other guy does. You only have control over what you do.” – A. J. Kitt
“It makes me mad when he does that, I wish he’d stop it!”
“Why does she do that, doesn’t she realise how irritating it is?”
“They made me so fed up with their actions.”
It’s probably a safe bet to say that we’ve all said things like those before now, either out loud whilst complaining to anyone who will listen, or even just inwardly to ourselves. I know I have. I can clearly remember one particular series of these thoughts all about the same person, at a series of seminars. It doesn’t really matter what the first thing was, they were doing something which for them was perfectly logical, but for some reason it made me think that they were showing off, perhaps unduly seeking attention, and that annoyed me. And worse than that, I allowed it to cause me to associate my feelings of annoyance and even disapproval with that person to the extent that it coloured my perception of them; naturally, it meant (because subconsciously I was looking for it) that I continued to see them do things which confirmed that I was right to be annoyed with them, and which I allowed to continue to make me annoyed by that person, and as a result I tended to avoid contact with them because “they make me feel annoyed”.
Of course, analysing the entire thing, the problem was mine not theirs.
They didn’t make me annoyed. I, at some level deep down, chose to be annoyed by their behaviour.
Nothing anyone does can directly cause is to feel any emotion; nobody has that inherent power over us. Imagine for a moment if they could. Imagine if one person had the ability to cause anyone to feel any given emotion, against their will. That one person would be the most powerful person in the entire world! To be able to force anyone into any emotional state at will?
The reality is none of us have that power. The only person who can make use feel a given emotion is ourselves. Deep down, we always have the choice of how to feel about any event.
Think about that for a moment.
Picture a time when a loved one snuggled up to you and said “I love you”. How did that make you feel? Probably it made you happy (I’m guessing, of course, but it’s a fairly safe bet). But did they cause you to feel happy, or did you, deep down, choose to feel happy because of what they said?
Still think they caused you to feel that way?
Well take that same picture, but instead of your loved one, picture replace them with someone you really do not like, but keep absolutely everything else the same – the snuggling, the words, everything. Now how do you feel? Probably altogether less happy than in the first picture. Yet they are saying and doing exactly the same thing, so surely you should feel the same way?
It’s all down to how you choose to feel. Yes, our feelings are often driven for us unconsciously, but they are all driven by us, not by others.
Others do and say the things they do, and they are in control of those; but it is we and we alone who are in control of how we react and feel, nobody else has that power over us.
And that’s a very empowering realisation, for when we realise that only we have power over our emotions, when we accept that power within ourselves, and when we start to use that power, we can gain huge control over aspects of our lives. With practise, we can overcome the unhelpful negative feelings which disempower us, and we can find new positive ways to react.
Thinking back to that person who I thought “made” me feel annoyed – once I realised that it was me choosing to be annoyed, I decided to chose not to feel anything about their actions. And it actually made my enjoyment of the seminars that little bit greater – I was no longer wasting time generating those negative feelings, so I was able to concentrate upon what I was learning instead. I even decided to get over myself and had a chat with them when we bumped into each other at a coffee break, and I found that they were a nice person after all – so not only had I wasted my time choosing to feel annoyed, I’d also missed out on earlier opportunities to chat with this person. A double loss for me!
So next time you find yourself complaining that “they made me so angry”, pause for a moment and ask yourself why you chose to feel angry about what they said or did; and then ask yourself if that anger is a good use of your time and energy, or is there something more constructive you could be feeling instead? Either way you feel is not going to affect the other person one iota, but it could make a huge difference to you!
And if you still think that it really is the other person who is making you angry, ask yourself why you are prepared to hand control of your emotions to them?