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“You make me so angry!”

There is something that doesn’t quite work about the expression, “You make me so angry” (or sad, disappointed, depressed, etc.). That is, none of us can really make someone an emotion. We may act or speak in ways that result in others experiencing negative feelings. Or, others may do or say things to which we react. However, in both cases we don’t and they don’t actually make the emotion happen.

This may sound as though I am ‘splitting hairs’. However, in my view, the notion inherent in the expression that begins with, “You make me so ____” is about blame, as the message I read into this phrasing is that someone has the intent, ability, and power to cause the emotions we feel. Or, that we have the intent, ability, and power to cause other’s emotions. I don’t think so. Rather, I think we alone are responsible for our reactions.

What we experience in response to another person’s actions or words though is very important to explore. This is not because it is necessary to attribute motives, find fault, or make excuses for the person’s conduct. It is, I believe, because our responses tell us more about us than the other person. The awareness that comes from exploring and understanding what lies beneath our emotional reactions – what is so important to us that we react the way we do – has, in my humble opinion, the potential for being transformative. It seems to me that self-discovery about why certain actions compel strong emotions in us informs us of the values and needs we have and therefore, the reasons our sense and sensibilities are what they are.

For this week’s blog, it will help to think of a situation in which you are saying to yourself, “She or he is making me so _____ (angry, upset, sad, etc.)” when answering the following questions:

  • What is the emotion you are experiencing about the other person’s words or actions?
  • What does it mean when you say the other person “makes” you ____ (whatever emotion(s) you say you are feeling)?
  • How does she or he do that?
  • What part of your answer to the previous question demonstrates her or his intention(s)?
  • Why do you think she or he has that (those) intention(s)?
  • If she or he didn’t intend to cause a reaction in you, how else may you interpret her or his actions or words?
  • What do you think is the root of your emotional reaction to what the other person said or did?
  • What difference does it make if you determine she or he didn’t make you have the emotion you feel?
  • What power do you give away by attributing intention to the other person?
  • What response may you have to this person that is most constructive whether or not she or he was purposeful in an effort to upset you?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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