Today, I'll be exploring a popular modern phrase: "No one can make you feel (insert emotion). You choose how you feel!" I want to dissect this statement and reflect on when it is applicable, when it is not applicable, as well as how we can utilize this statement in a beneficial way for everyone involved.
First, the Statement:
I remember hearing, "No one can make you feel anything. You choose how you feel." several years ago when my spiritual journey was deepening. I thought it was quite a profound statement but I never fully applied it to my life. Not for any particular reason, it just didn't stick. But I started reflecting on this idea recently and came up with some thoughts. First, the "No one can make you feel..." statement is meant to convey the idea that we as human beings have the ability to determine how we react to anything that is said or done around us. Therefore if anyone says or does anything that triggers an internal reaction, any emotions or feelings that arise are of the receiver's responsibility. Whatever was said or done to trigger that reaction is of little significance as there is something within the receiver that has caused them to react that way. So from there, it is up to the receiver to explore what caused that reaction and work through it so they no longer react to that trigger.
While this idea does have some truth in it, there are some aspects that can be easily misunderstood and therefore, applied in a harmful way. If the person using this idea doesn't understand it, it can actually inflate the ego rather than tame it. Let's dive a little deeper.
Regardless of the Receiver's Reaction, You are Still Responsible:
While it is true that however we react or respond to external stimuli is a reflection of what's going on inside of us, we are still responsible for what we say or do to others. And if we say or do something that is inappropriate or could possibly cause a stir, we must accept responsibility for our actions and anything we co-created. What we say or do to people can and does have an affect on them, even if we don't mean it. That doesn't mean that we have to walk on egg shells, but we have to be willing to accept that what we put out into the world does have an affect on our environment, whether close friends, family or even those we don't know. A good example of this would be parents and their children. One of the reasons why most of us have to work through childhood trauma is because of something our guardians said or did that had an effect on us. At the appropriate age, we can start shifting the focus towards reclaiming our sense of personal responsibility and transforming any beliefs that may have been created in our minds as a result of those events. Does that mean our guardians suddenly lose responsibility for the part they played in our lives? Nope. They are still responsible for their part in creating what was created. Does that mean we should only focus on them and harbor resentment towards them? No. Now, you wouldn't be wrong for harboring resentment but if you desire to heal and open your heart, this approach also would not be beneficial for you.
You can't control how someone feels about something you say or do. We can't necessarily make someone feel a certain way, but we also need to keep in mind that words and actions have the potential to damage or heal, and we need to be ready to accept that we played a part in creating our world based on our words and actions.
You Can't Help How You Feel:
When feelings arise, they typically do so without warning. You can't help how something or someone makes you feel. Just think about all of the things you love, all the things you have an affinity towards. If someone has a love for dance, music or a certain culture, that can't be controlled. It's just something that is. If you have read my previous blogs or have worked with me before, you'll know I share that the worst thing you can do when feelings arise is suppress them. Should a heavy or negative feeling arise as a result of something that was done or said, don't suppress it and don't shame yourself for it. Initially it may be difficult to control how you respond in your environment, as the average human being is typically quite reactionary. Being responsive as opposed to reactive takes mindfulness and practice.
But You Can Explore The Roots of the Response:
If you happen to be at the receiving end of something that caused a hurtful reaction, you can choose to explore this more deeply. You have the power to sink into your inner realms and get to the root of what caused a certain reaction. You can start by asking yourself several questions,
"What does this statement make me feel?"
"Why do I feel this way?"
"Do I feel this statement or action reflects something that I feel may be true about myself?"
"Did something happen in my life that caused me to create a belief about myself or the world? How does my reaction reflect this belief?"
"Do I feel this event is making me question my value as a person?"
Of course, this is a very general set of questions and will change depending on the situation. But they are a good start in beginning to understand the roots of our reactions or responses. I also want to mention that you do not HAVE to do this. Not all reactions need to be transformed. Sometimes all that is needed is to sit with the feelings that arise and let them be. We are humans and our emotions our natural. We don't need to get rid of everything that arises or always come up with a reason for why it did. In fact, sometimes the reaction is needed to create a necessary change that can benefit the collective. Determine for yourself which approach will work best for you based on your unique situation.
Empaths Especially, Make Sure You Use This Statement Wisely:
This part is short and to the point. Empaths, be careful of possible hypocrisy when using this statement. These statements are frequently repeated without realizing how they can be contradictory. Many empaths have difficulty taking control of their gift and therefore pick up people's energies without knowing how to filter them. Empaths frequently end up placing power in the hands of the person "making them feel" the way they do by saying things like "This person is toxic and they're draining my energy." So if you're still working on becoming empowered in your empathy, be careful in using the "No one can make you feel anything" statement.
I know people like the profundity of these new age statements and like to repeat them to everyone they meet. But as with any spiritual idea, it must come from a pure place and you must know when to use it. For people that are still growing in self awareness, statements like these may not be useful, applicable or even necessary to share. Be mindful of forcing your beliefs on others as it may cause undue conflict. We are all on our own journey and it's vital that we respect everyone's personal experience.