"I just have to tell you how I feel. I'm very upset about what you did."
"I'm really angry with you."
"I just want to be honest with you. I'm so hurt by what you said."
Each of these statements is a sharing of feelings. Yet the chances are that the person at the other end of this sharing of feelings will feel attacked and respond defensively.
So what's the problem? Aren't we supposed to share our feelings?
Well, yes and no. It depends upon your intent.
When feelings are shared from our ego wounded self, they are being used as a means of manipulation and control. The message behind the above sharing of feelings is, "I'm upset, or angry, or hurt and it's your fault. You are responsible for my feelings. Your unacceptable behavior is the cause of my painful feelings."
We are being caring with ourselves and others when we share our feelings with the intent is to learn about ourselves and others, or to just give information. For example, if you say, "I'm very upset about what you did, and there must be a good reason you did it. Can we talk about it?" your intent is to learn rather than blame. Instead of being a victim of the other person's behavior, you are interested in understanding the situation. Or, you might say, "I'm really angry at you, and I don't want to take it out on you. So I'm going for a walk and see if I can get through this." In this case, you are taking responsibility for your own feelings, your own reactions, and just giving the other person information about your behavior.
Many of our feelings -- such as anger, anxiety, depression (anxiety and depression can also come from physical causes), guilt, shame, emptiness, aloneness or jealousy -- come from our thoughts and behavior, not from others' behavior. For example, let's say that your friend tells you that she wants to get off the phone because she is feeling judged by you and she doesn't like it. There are many things you can tell yourself about this, and what you tell yourself will determine what you feel.
If you tell yourself that your friend is in a bad place and is projecting her judgments of herself onto you, you might feel compassionate toward her.
If you tell yourself that you can never do anything right and that you are a bad person for judging, you might feel inadequate, unworthy and rejected.
If you tell yourself that your friend has no right to say this to you, you might feel angry.
If you tell yourself that you might be judging and there might be something important for you to learn here -- that there must be good reason that you are judging, you may feel open and curious.
If you tell yourself that only a really good friend would tell you her truth, you might feel grateful and appreciative of her courage.
If you tell yourself that you are not judging, that it is your friend who is judging, and you take her judgment personally as an attack, you might feel hurt.
If you tell yourself that your friend is unkind, crazy or off the wall, you may feel righteous.
I hope you can see from these examples that, regardless of what someone else is doing, it is often what we tell ourselves about it that causes many of our feelings. It is so easy to believe that it's another's behavior that causes these wounded feelings. And then we believe that we need to tell them our feelings as a way of taking care of ourselves. But this is the opposite of personal responsibility -- it's being a victim and using our feelings as a way to blame.
The next time you are upset with someone and want to blame him or her for your feelings, stop and notice your intent. If you discover that your intent is to blame the other person for your feelings, you might want to go off by yourself and notice what you are telling yourself.
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