By Mike Rice, LISAC, CTRTC
If it rains, will the rain have an emotional effect on you?
Some of you may say, “Yes” and others may say, “No.”
Some may show emotions of anger, depression, disappointment, or even anxiety. Others may welcome the rain and be happy, smile, or even be joyful over it.
Why the two different reactions? It’s the same rain in the same city.
The difference lies with your perception of how the rain affects your plans or needs. Personally, I love when it rains. We get so little of it here in Arizona and it turns many things green and smells nice afterwards.
If your phone rings and you answer it, did the ringing make you say, “Hello?” Have you ever not answered a phone when it rang?
When driving and you come to a stop sign or a red traffic light, did that sign or light make you stop? Have you ever purposely run a red light or stop sign?
If you said “no” the phone didn’t make me answer it and the stop sign/light didn’t make me stop, then you might be inclined to say that you were not controlled by those outside stimuli because you chose not to answer or stop . . . because you didn’t want to and you were aware of the possible consequences if you didn’t. Your decision was a choice.
So why is it that when someone says something or does something that you DON’T agree with or like that you blame them for “making” you feel angry, disappointed, sad, or even fearful? Conversely, why is it that when someone says or does something that you DO like you may react with laughter, happiness, or pleasure? It all comes from within yourself based upon how you perceive the situation. Is it meeting your wants and needs . . . or not? If not, then you want to do something that will make the situation meet your wants or needs. You take measures to control and change someone to do or believe what you want done or believe. The other person didn’t “MAKE” you to try to control or change them. You chose to do so.
How do you usually react when someone tries to blame, change, or control you? Do you like it when that happens? No? Then what makes you think others will like it when you do it to them?
When we get outside stimuli that matches what we want, need, or believe, we choose to react in a positive and cheerful manner. I use the word “choose” because what some people may react to with positive cheerful behaviors may find others choosing negative and unhappy behaviors even though the outside stimuli is the same for both. The only difference is the perception each person has about the outside information they received. People can choose how they will respond. If they want to feel miserable and unhappy and/or want you to know just how miserable and unhappy they are, they will show you with their behavior just as the happy and pleasant people would do with their different perception.
You, and only you, are the master of your emotions. If you believe that others can control your emotions by the things they may say or do, you are actually giving up your own emotional control to someone else and giving them your power to control your emotions and behavior.
If you don’t want to feel angry or tense, or any other negative emotion, why would you choose to do so? Choosing to remain happy or content is as easy as refusing to accept one’s offer for another cup of coffee when you don’t want any more. It’s a choice. No one is forcing you to have another cup just as no one is ever making you react in an unhappy manner except you.
We live in a world of criticism and judgment as well as those who will coerce us to do things we may not like or want to do. They do so because they know we will give them our control. If we don’t relinquish it, then they go away. As the saying goes: No one can walk over you if you don’t lie down. You can’t control them and they cannot control you. Allow others who think and behave differently than you to do and think as they please. It is not your responsibility to change and control others to your way of thinking and doing nor is it the responsibility of others to, blame, change, or control you to their way of thinking and doing.
None of us can be all things to all people. We cannot please everyone because we all have different wants and needs. When someone blames, criticizes, or judges you without really knowing you, or if they don’t have all of the facts, their words and behavior are based on no more than their short-sighted perception and/or lack of information. You will always have a choice on how to react to them.
Several years ago, when I was a married man, I had moved our family to AZ. We purchased a home and bought a luxury car. My wife wanted to drive the new car to the store so she asked me if there was anything that I wanted as long as she was out and about. I requested that she get a jug of muriatic acid for the pool. When she returned, I helped bring the groceries in and noticed the absence of the acid. When I asked about it, she informed me that she had placed it on the floorboard, behind the driver’s seat.
I shuddered to think what could have happened. As I opened the back door of the car, my fears were confirmed. The bottle of acid had fallen over and acid leaked out and had dissolved the carpet down to the bare metal of the floorboard. When I asked her why she would place a bottle of acid in such a position as to ruin the carpet, she replied, “It’s your fault, not mine.” Astonished, I repeated, “My fault? How is it MY fault?” She answered, “If you hadn’t asked me to get it, it wouldn’t have happened.”
In my dumbfounded expression to her response, I had a split moment to process what she had said. It became clear to me, in that moment, that she was indeed correct. Silly me for expecting her to have known better.
Before reacting to others, you may choose to give them more information and if this doesn’t work, you can always (reframe your perception) decide that arguing or getting upset over the other person’s behavior or words are just not worth the effort or unhappiness and walk away or change the subject. When discussing differences, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do going to bring me closer to agreement with this person or will it drive us further apart?” One doesn’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to come up with the correct answer that will result in the least resistance and unhappiness.
If someone were to call you a horse’s ass . . . that is merely their opinion. However, if three or more people call you a horse’s ass, you may want to start shopping around for a saddle. If this offends you, I hope you didn’t hurt your feelings.