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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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8 Responses to “You make me so angry!”

  1. Judy Ringer says:

    Thank you very much for your post, Cinnie. Blaming others for our emotions — while tempting and easy — is one of the primary ways we give away our power.

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Judy:
    That’s so true – that we give away our power by blaming others for our emotions. I didn’t think of blaming others for our emotions in that way and am so glad you added that here.

  3. While I’m going to write that it is indeed possible to be acting peacefully and not just in perception and be on the end of highly questionable and negative behavior, without provocation, the statement “you make me…” is as transparent as they come, translated to “it’s all about me, you know?”

    That comment is a sign that there are emotions riding us, not vice versa, and us being overly controlled by them to our detriment.

    Maybe the other person did hurt you but the emotional response should be re-framed and Cinnie’s questions can go a long ways towards assisting with the cooling of the amygdala, helping someone retain one’s composure, and insisting on one keeping their attitudes more positive, and thus, their actions.

  4. Cinnie Noble says:

    These are great comments to add to this blog Michael.

    We certainly give a lot of control/responsibility (or power – as Judy says above) to ‘the other person’ when we say she or he ‘makes’ us do or feel something.

  5. We often don’t realize the power we surrender. So true. If we re-frame our thoughts, control our behavior, we usually see we dilute a conflict or manage it and our emotions far better than when we let our animal brains run away from us.

  6. Cinnie Noble says:

    Yes, I agree with these comments too.

    I suggest that one way we can reframe things when we find ourselves thinking/saying that someone else is ‘making’ us feel something is to ask ourselves ‘what power am I giving up, or giving to the other person?’

  7. I like that Cinnie.

    Who amongst us wants to give up power if it makes us unhappy or miserable.

    I once saw the back of a company’s truck that said something to the effect of the best way to have more money is save more.

    Same thing with personal power, not to be confused with attaining power. With personal power, the best way to have more is save what you have and that means not surrendering it in conflict.

  8. Cinnie Noble says:

    You present further interesting thoughts here. However, I can’t say I quite get the idea of saving power, Michael.

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