You Don’t Have to Own Your Feelings
There’s a fine line between a partner requesting personal responsibility and manipulation.
‘Own your feelings’ is a heavily triggering sentence for me. I had it thrown in my face when I was in deep pain. It was a sort of motto in my poly family and something I would go back to when everything else failed. This sentence always felt so wrong to me. As a kid, I was really sensitive to things I felt were unjust. The feeling of injustice is something so close to my skin, it grew with me. Nothing triggers me worse than the feeling of something that is unbalanced, unequal, unfair.
I had that same feeling of unfairness with this sentence and tried to explain it, but was never able to get to the core of it — mainly because I was frequently talked out of questioning it. Whenever I picked this angle, I was presented with a ton of evidence to the contrary — mainly poly-mainstream books and articles who defended this approach — and I was left feeling there was no other way out. At the time, I only had my feelings to support my dislike for the approach. So, ironically, I had to own my feelings on that too. I didn’t have as many words as I have now.
The problem with owning your feelings is that it places an apparent focus on personal responsibility. And I say apparent, because owning your feelings is only about responsibility on a surface level. The reasoning around responsibility works to disguise what’s really at stake.
Here’s the logic behind the idea of owning your feelings: whatever you’re feeling is your responsibility and yours only. It’s framed on a thousand more or less famous quotes you can find online, one of those being attributed to Harold S. Kushner: “You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
It sounds empowering. It gives you a sense of control in the face of adversity. I thought it helped me. I was wrong.
A google search on ‘own your feelings’ turns up millions of results with the likes of: Own your feelings, don’t let them own you. The power of owning your feelings. We are responsible for our own feelings. Powerful ways to own your emotions. How do I control my emotions? Only on the second…