Do You Let “Other People” Control Your Emotional World?
Have you ever blamed others for “ruining” your day? Have you ever started your day feeling great but found your mood drop to the floor after having an encounter with a family member or someone you meet during your day? Is there that proverbial “thorn-in-the-side” person at work that always rubs you the wrong way?
Encounters with other people can raise your stress-level sky high, leaving worry, stress, and anxiety to rule the rest of your day.
Giving Other People Power Over Your Emotions
Other people can force you into physical slavery, but no one can force you into “emotional slavery.” You can be forced to DO something against your will, but you cannot be forced to FEEL a certain emotion.
Fortunately, we in this country have outlawed slavery, but (fortunately, as well) we can’t outlaw our thoughts and emotions. The trouble is, you can make yourself an “emotional slave” to the opinions of other people. In fact, you can fall into the trap of thinking that “other people” are your entire world. And then your feelings of self-worth and success depend upon the approval of other people. When you let this happen, you are no longer the navigator of your own life — you have turned the controls over to OTHERS. You have adopted a DOUBLE STANDARD, saying that “others” have a right to pursue their values and goals, but that you do not.
How many women do you know who have turned themselves into mere sidekicks, who see themselves only as “facilitators” of the goals of their family members, putting their own personal goals on the back burner called “someday”? And how often does that “someday” file turn into a file that says “never”?
“Other People” Are Not The Whole World
In reality, your world is made up of yourself and the world you find yourself in. Other people are only a part of the world you find yourself in. Besides other people, there is YOU, and there is the rest of reality.
As an adult, the world and its resources are essential to your survival; other people are not. Though you may choose to interact with other people to enhance your productivity and happiness, other people are NOT your whole world. Your emotional world is made up of your evaluations of all three of these things:
- The World (and the facts of reality)
- Other People
Part of being in control of your emotional world is having a healthy perspective on the facts of reality, your place in the world, and the place of other people in your life.
You Can Choose The Make-Up Of Your Emotional World
In reality, you are the one responsible for your emotional world. No one can make you feel a certain way — you can CHOOSE to evaluate your behavior or the behavior of another person according to your values instead of somebody else’s values. And you can CHOOSE to not let someone else’s behavior or feelings taint your own behavior or feelings.
If you decide to depend on the reactions of others to guide you, that is still your choice. That choice comes from your evaluation of yourself — you can decide that you are less important than others, or you can decide that you are incompetent to make your own decisions, or you can decide to be too lazy to make your own decisions. With any one of these evaluations, you are choosing to put other people in charge of the way you live and the way you “wire” your emotions.
You can see that the way you evaluate yourself, the world, and others is the KEY to staying in charge of your emotional world.
No matter what your situation, YOU are the only one in control of your thoughts and emotions. When you discover that wonderful fact, you are more likely to take responsibility for evaluating the situations and the people in your life. You are more likely to stop depending on others for your thoughts and emotions, and to start depending on yourself to use your own best judgment to arrive at your own conclusions, which lead directly to your emotions.
The choice is yours: you can choose to base your thoughts and emotions on the actions and reactions of other people, or you can choose to base your thoughts and emotions on your own progress toward achieving your values and goals in life. You can choose to judge the success of your day by your “smooth encounters” with other people, or you can choose to judge the success of your day by the steps you have taken toward making your dreams come true.
Controlling Your Life Doesn’t Mean Controlling Others Or Being Controlled By Others
Don’t misunderstand me: your goals can include fulfilling relationships with other people. But your goals should be for yourself — they should have nothing to do with violating or interfering with others and their goals. If you (or they) have a goal that requires violating or interfering with others, then it is not a legitimate goal. This is because nobody can live your life for you; nor can you live other people’s lives for them. Each person must be free to live his or her own life for his or her very own self.
This is why striving for your goals has nothing to do with controlling other people — or other people controlling you. Striving for your goals means facing the facts of reality and taking good care of your health, forming good character habits, and taking actual steps toward the things that are most important to you for your life. And it means honoring this same right (and responsibility) for others to direct their own lives, without your interference. When you have this perspective on the world, yourself, and other people, you can enhance and inspire each other as you each strive to achieve your goals and your happiness.
But what if other people don’t always like your values, goals, dreams, or plans — and they accuse you of “rocking the boat,” or “ruining their day,” or otherwise displeasing them?
- You can tell them that people are different and that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to have the same values, goals, dreams or plans.
- You can tell them that this is the beauty of our country: we can each create our own life stories without the permission or approval of others, as long as we honor our fellow citizens’ right to do the same for their own lives. You can tell them that this is what it means to be free.
- You can tell them that a true friend would never ask you to betray yourself by turning your back on your most important values and goals, and that blind obedience to the will of others amounts to making yourself a slave.
- You can add that it’s a win-win situation: when you are true to your own dreams, you inspire others to be true to theirs as well.
Taking Control Of Your Emotional World
Part of being in control of you life is being in control of your emotional world. Your fulfillment and happiness comes from knowing how to correct the kind of thinking that leads to undo stress. Last night I heard a speaker who specializes in stress-relief and relaxation say how important it is to see facts and events as SEPARATE from what you tell yourself about those facts or events. The events and the facts are what they are; however you can stay in control of your life if you are careful in your EVALUATION of those facts or events. You can allow yourself to be swept away by your immediate fears or other people’s reactions and jump to conclusions, or you can use your love for life and your best judgment to arrive at what those facts and events mean for your life. Using your best reasoning to assign constructive meaning to the facts and events of your life makes it possible for you to take constructive ACTION — and keeps you in charge of your emotional life.
For example, two women can be abandoned by their boyfriends. The first woman sees it as “the end of the world,” and the second woman sees it as a valuable learning experience and a chance to find a more genuine romantic relationship. Likewise, two women can lose their jobs. The first woman blames her boss for making her feel like “I’m no good,” and the second woman sees it as a challenge and an opportunity to find more fulfilling work and make her life better. In both cases, the first woman lets other people’s actions suck the meaning out of her life; the second woman lets her own careful evaluation give her life new meaning and direction.
I hope this helps you see how your emotional world is created by how you evaluate the world, yourself, and the other people in your life. The more you take charge of your thinking, the more control you will have of your emotional world. Reality-based thinking leads to a healthy, enjoyable emotional world; thinking based on fears, worries, and the reactions of other people lead to an unhealthy, stressful emotional world.
From here on out, whenever you feel someone else is controlling your emotional reactions, use your thinking cap to evaluate the situation in terms of your own best understanding. This way, you can stop basing your emotions on the actions and reactions of others, and start basing your emotions on your own deep-down values and goals. You can eliminate the stress of being whipped around by emotions based on others who are out of your control, you can feel like your emotions are genuinely “yours,” and you can enjoy being in charge of your emotional life!
Handy Resource: To discover how to vastly improve your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life, click on the Break Free CD button above. My CD program, 8 Steps For Reclaiming Your Life shows you an easy, fun way to trace your conflicts to their very roots in your bottom-line belief system. You will see how your conflicts come from the incompatible “ingredients” in your Recipe For Living. By adjusting your Recipe to make all your “ingredients” compatible, you will discover how to eliminate all the unnecessary conflict and guilt from your life, and you will learn how to handle unavoidable conflict and criticism with ease and good will. And you will discover how to convert your To Do List from an endless stream of duties to an exciting plan of purposeful steps toward the most important things you want to experience and achieve in your lifetime.