“I’m angry with you.”
“I’m feeling really hurt by what you said to me.”
“I’m so disappointed in you.”
“I’m feeling really irritated with you.”
How often have you said these things to others? And how do they generally respond?
Do they get defensive?
Do they get angry?
Do they withdraw?
Do they lecture or explain things to you, trying to talk you out of your feelings?
Do they become people pleasers, trying to fix your feelings?
Are they open and curious?
Most likely, they will respond with some form of protective, defensive behavior, because they probably feel attacked.
Why would they feel attacked by your expression of feelings?
When someone has done something that is upsetting to you, the question to ask yourself when you are sharing your feelings with that person is, “What is my intent in sharing my feelings with this person?”
There are two possible answers to this question:
1. I am sharing my feelings to give information.
2. I am sharing my feelings to blame the person for causing my feelings.
If you were sharing your feelings to give information, you might say, “I’m feeling angry with you, so I’m going out for a walk and try to deal with it.”
If you were taking responsibility for your own feelings, you may not say anything about your feelings to the other person. You would go inside and explore what you are telling yourself that is causing you to feel angry, hurt, disappointed, or irritated. You might share information, such as, “I’m feeling stressed, so I’m going to take a bath.”
But if you just say, “I’m angry with you,” or “You hurt my feelings,” then you are not taking responsibility for your feelings – you are dumping your feelings on the other person, and he or she will feel blamed.
“But he did make me angry!” you might be thinking. “She did hurt my feelings.” “He did disappoint me.” Behind these statements lies a major false belief – the belief that others cause your feelings.
It is not what another person says or does that causes your upsets, but your expectations and what you tell yourself about another’s behavior that causes your painful feelings. If you expected a birthday gift and didn’t get one, you will feel disappointed, but it is your expectation that caused the disappointment. If someone ignores you or rejects you, what do you tell yourself? Do you tell yourself that you are not good enough, not lovable enough? This is what will hurt you or make you feel angry. You will feel hurt and angry when you allow yourself to take others’ behavior personally. If you then blame them for your feelings, you are being a victim rather than taking responsibility for having taken their behavior personally.
Others will likely feel manipulated, blamed and controlled when you make a statement such as “I’m angry with you,” or “I’m feeling hurt by what you said.” If the other person says “That’s your problem,” or responds with anger, defensiveness, or withdrawal, and then you respond with “I’m just sharing my feelings,” the interaction can get really convoluted.
Next time you share your feelings and the other person gets angry, defensive, or withdrawn, take a moment to investigate your own intention. The chances are you are covertly blaming the other person for your feelings. Once you discover that this is what you are doing, disengage from the interaction and explore how you might be causing your own feelings. What are you telling yourself and how are you treating yourself that is causing your upsetting feelings?
You will discover that your interactions with others greatly improve when you stop being a victim by blaming others for your feelings and start to take responsibility for your own feelings.
By Margaret Paul