Rene Asmussenfoto — freeimages

When we interact with others, and things get out of hand, a very common behavior is to feel that: we have been hurt. That is, it is common to feel that the other person has hurt ME.

But, psychologically, and as an interaction, this is very far from what may really be going on. All human emotions are generated INTERNALLY. Other people can’t beam or insert emotions into you. Read that again slowly. It’s a profound observation. The point of the observation is that, to take control of our lives, we each need to understand, acknowledge and take responsibility for the EMOTIONS and FEELINGS that arise WITHIN ourselves.

Here is a short play (annotated) that demonstrates this concept.

There are two good friends who live together. Due to an argument, they are very upset. One says to the other,

“I don’t enjoy trying to have a conversation with someone who can’t stop crying and who keeps looking at you with those big, watery, bleeding heart eyes…… It’s getting old. It’s playing with my head.”

Well, guess what? People get upset. This is natural. When we’re upset, we often say things in an exaggerated and emotional way. AND, sometimes what we say is… well… it’s just too blunt! “Bleeding heart eyes” is pretty strong. But when this happens, it is important that we make a very important observation. The “we” that is getting upset is actually “ME”. It’s important that we, ourselves, take responsibility for these feelings.

In short, it is NOT “all about them”. YOUR upset is YOURS. It is not “How SHE made me feel” — it is “How ‘I’ FELT when she did that.”

The play continues in 2 acts.

Act One:

Your friend stomps out of the room into the rec room and slams the door. You hear her pound on the wall and yell out from the other room,

“ YOU TOTAL JERK! I’m not going to put up with this!”

So, what do you conclude from this?

a. Sure we are having an argument. But, she’s now gone way overboard. I’m not going to take this kind of abuse from her anymore.

b. My friend has just stabbed me in the back. It’s always like this. Once again, I’ve been mortally wounded.

c. It’s payback time, baby. You haven’t seen anything yet.

Act Two:

The scene of act one is now played over again from a “god’s eye view”. The friend stomps into the rec room and slams the door.

photo by Kathryn — flickr

She then walks over to the window and puts her head on the glass and starts to cry. She doesn’t want any of these hard feelings to happen. But, as she does that, she notices her pain in the ass neighbor breaking into her car again.

You hear her pound on the wall and yell out from the other room, “ YOU TOTAL JERK! I’m not going to put up with this!” The curtain falls.

What’s really going on here? First we find out that your best friend, who did yell out this strong phrase, WASN’T TALKING TO YOU AT ALL. She was releasing some high emotions, sure, probably worked up by your argument. But she was actually cursing at the neighbor in the street that was breaking into her car!

So, what really happened inside of YOU here? Sound came into your ears. You converted the sound into a story that was based on your current mood and your own personal history. You filled in all kinds of erroneous assumptions to match your mood and your past experience history of hurt. You felt attacks from the past being played over again. You felt abused. You felt stabbed in the back, all, PRESUMABLY, due to an act your friend just did. Then, based on this false story, you decided to take action: revenge.

Look how ironic this is. Your friend wasn’t even talking to you. The words were aimed at a neighbor in the street. You made the whole story up! The attack, the abuse, the stabbing in the back …. All made UP!

These kinds of scenarios don’t only happen in rare cases. MOST highly emotional cases are actually variations of this. Sure someone can say something to you directly and it’s not a case of mistaken identity like the example above. But we still process what we hear in a very similar way. The FEELINGS that we get inside of us are NOT TRANSMITTED to us from the outside along with the sounds. We, our brain, generates the feelings inside of us. And we do it with the help of every ghost swirling around inside our head as well.

To repeat, it’s not ‘How SHE or HE made me feel’ — it’s ‘HOW I FELT when she or he did what they did’.

If a person is overwhelmed by emotional turmoil, understanding this process is crucial to regaining stability and self esteem. We need to learn to OWN our own feelings. We need to own them because they are being manufactured in our own brain. And we should NOT then blame someone else for the EMOTIONS we are FEELING. FEELINGS are NOT TRANSMITTED to us from other people. Sound waves and light waves are transmitted to us. We are the ones who construct the personal stories and feelings that interpret them.