You Make Me Feel

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. -Viktor Emil Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, author and Holocaust survivor

So, you make me feel… Nope. Sorry. You don’t make me feel anything. This is a good thing! A more accurate statement would be, “When x happens, I find myself feeling y.” For any of us to believe that power over our feelings is held by another is disastrous for our emotional well-being.

Perhaps you disagree with this assertion. Well, what would you rather believe? Would you like to think that you are in control of yourself and your mind, or that everyone you meet and everything that happens around you controls your thoughts, feelings and actions? If someone tries to take advantage of you or flirts with you or calls you a derogatory name, do they determine how you feel about it? Let’s parse this out a bit…

Scenario #1: Someone tries to take advantage of you by leaving his work unfinished for you to complete before you go home for the day. How do you respond?

  • You could do the work, yet be angry for being taken advantage of and never speak to this person again.
  • You could do the work, yet be resentful of him and vow to sabotage him behind his back.
  • You could be confused as to why it was left for you and go home with the idea of confronting him in the morning, obsessing about the nerve of that guy all night long.
  • You could be afraid of getting in trouble or making a mistake, and do the work without complaint.
  • You could be unaffected by this turn of events, leaving a polite note for the person explaining that he may have mistakenly thought you would complete it for him, but no.can.do.

Is there a right answer or best choice? The better question is: did this person make you feel any of this? Or, could it be said that when you perceive someone as taking advantage, you tend to find yourself responding in a particular way? Could you choose to see it differently in the moment and thereby respond more productively?

Scenario #2: You are in the produce section of the grocery store, when an attractive woman approaches you with a flattering pick-up line and asks for your number.

  • You could feel extremely embarrassed and try to ignore the person, hoping she goes away.
  • You could become enraged and tell her that your last girlfriend really did a number on you, and that you didn’t even want to think of putting yourself through that kind of pain again any time soon.
  • You could become suspicious and ask her if your friends put her up to this.
  • You could be flattered, yet politely tell her you’re already in a relationship.
  • You could admire her bravery and give it a shot.
  • You could panic and push your cart rapidly in the opposite direction.

If you chose option number three, turn to page 147 (Just kidding, this isn’t a Choose Your Own Adventure book!). Did the woman herself make you feel like you did in that moment? Perhaps your response was related to your history. Perhaps it had nothing to do with the woman at all.

Scenario #3: You accidentally crush your brother’s prize winning sculpture of the Millennium Falcon. He goes into an expletive laced rant about how insensitive and selfish you are, and that nobody likes you.

  • You lose it completely and start yelling at your brother in retaliation, enumerating his flaws and weaknesses.
  • You feel deeply ashamed, realizing that you always ruin everything and he is right about you.
  • You feel absolutely nothing; no, make that contempt, and start laughing at him.
  • You feel empathy for your brother’s pain and comfort him for his loss, disregarding his rant.
  • You feel regret for breaking his sculpture and vow to help him rebuild it.
  • You calmly wait for his emotional outburst to abate, and ask him sincerely how you can make it up to him.

Your brother may have tried to make you feel like dirt about the sculpture debacle. But can he really? Not without your consent. He was attempting to put his hurt feelings into you, but his success in doing so depends entirely on your ability or inability to react in an emotionally healthy manner. Perhaps a better response to this situation would be to quote Bradley Cooper’s character Pat in the movie, Silver Linings Playbook, “I’ve got nothing but love for you brother.”

If you’d like to talk to someone about being in charge of your feelings, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services in Orlando today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed mental health counselors.


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