Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why Can't Everyone Be More Like Me?

On Verbal Responsibility-Part I

There is something that when I hear it, I get irked. You'll notice, in spite of having to write an awkward sentence, I did not say "there's something that irks me". Because I believe there isn't anyone or anything that can "make" me anything. And that's where the irking comes in.

I think most people wield their emotions like baseball bats, blaming each other for what they're feeling. They think they can't help it. Carl Jung called emotions "the unconscious conversation of instinctual impulses." I'm in agreement. We all have emotions and some feel overwhelming. Ask anyone who's ever fallen helplessly in love. I'm not saying don't have feelings, just keep it real.

You see, you can feel happy and sad and angry and nervous, but nothing "makes" you feel that way. For instance, you may say, "the sun makes me happy." How does the sun do that, exactly? The sun is just sitting up there in the sky, doing its thing, being the sun. You feel happy, but the sun didn't do it. You might say, "I feel happy on a sunny day." Great, now you're taking responsibility for what you're saying and what you're feeling. It's not the sun, it's you.

The sun can make you hot or sweaty but it can't make you happy. And I'm not contradicting myself, hot and sweaty are sensations. The rain can make you wet. The rain cannot make you depressed. Say what's real.

Also people don't make you anything. They don't make you happy or sad or angry. They are people doing the best they are able, being who they are to the best of their abilities. My ever insightful Grammy always says, "You do the best you can with what you know and when you know better, you do better." My kid came home one day saying, "Blake makes me so mad." I replied (in a calmly smug tone) "Blake is a jerk, for sure, but he's just being who he is. If you want to get mad, that's your business." My kid hates that.

Not that I'm against expressing anger. In fact, I'm all for it. I can be irritable. Ok, the word I usually hear is bitchy. I think I'm just keeping it real. And sometimes reality is a kid who has done the same dumb thing for the sixth time or a sister who cannot be on time to save her life. Yes, I gripe about it, stridently. I've been known to throw a hissy fit. There's nothing wrong with being angry and expressing it. Do it and get it out and over with, instead of acting so above it all and loaded with higher consciousness and letting it gather like a little army of pissants, waiting to take their vengeance out on the next person who crosses the line. Just do not utter the words, "You make me." It's okay to express emotions, just, for your own sake, own them.

It's great to express love, right? Of course. However, if someone can "make" you happy or content or secure, then that person could "make" you sad or anxious or angry. Do you really want to hand over that much power to someone? Especially when the truth is no one "makes" you anything, you decide. Oh sure, you don't always choose who you fall in love with. These feelings come on us suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly and chemistry has a lot to do with it. But by choosing to say what' s real, to be responsible for your words, we can realize, even in the fog of blissful new love, that we are still in some control of our feelings. It's wonderful when you feel such happiness with another person, but do you both a favor and own it.

And don't let someone do that to you. Don't let a person get away with telling you that you make them so happy. Now what? You're in charge of this person's happiness? Who wants that job?

When I watch movies or television that have scenes in a psychiatrist's office and I hear "How does that make you feel?", I cringe. Real therapists do the same thing. They are encouraging their patients to be victims of their emotions. It all starts with the words we speak. What the doctors should ask is "How do you feel about that?" Now the patient, the person, you and me, are engaged and invested in our own feelings.

Now we get into a tricky area. If you are going to take verbal responsibility for your feelings, shouldn't everyone? I can just go through life being who I am, doing what I do, right? If family or friends or strangers get angry or hurt, that's their problem, right? NO. This is not a license to be mean or rude or flaky. You know better, so act better, Be the same kind and considerate person you've always been. If you inadvertently hurt or anger someone and they come to you and say you pissed them off, set them straight. They are pissed at you and probably for good reason, but you didn't piss them off, they got pissed. Say what's real. Oh, and if they were pissed before, that'll kick it up a notch.

Finally, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't have feelings. And, as my sentimental Grammy always tells me, "Feelings are not supposed to be logical." Of course not, Grammy, I know that. But what we say about them puts them in perspective. We're going to feel things. We're going to have feelings of love and grief and worry and even hate sometimes. And we are going to take credit for every single one of them.

I swear, if everyone were more like me, the world would be a better place.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm not going to say someone or something pisses me off any more! I swear I'm not, because I don't want you to make me feel like an idiot :)