In case you haven’t worked it out yet, I love my dog Charlie. He has completely changed my life. Rather than bore you with the soppy details again, you can read more about him here.
As I walked into the office on Monday, I informed my colleagues that I have really been enjoying waking up early and taking Charlie for walks before work.
“Oh no, you’re making me feel guilty!” exclaimed a lovely fellow dog-owner.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the adage “nobody can make you feel anything”, yet it seems to be so commonplace in our vernacular to attribute our feelings to somebody or something else.
Why is this problematic?
- Locus of control: if we believe that things that happen in our life are a result of outside forces (called an external locus of control), such as other people, luck, bad bosses, crappy weather, then we can feel helpless and hopeless, totally give up on trying to improve our life, adopting what is colloquially referred to as a ‘victim mentality’, and are always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Conversely, having an internal locus of control means that we take charge of our life, feel empowered, and create our own plan for successful living.
- Communication: believing that others cause our feelings can lead to us communicate in an aggressive or passive way, rather than being assertive. When we communicate aggressively, such as by saying “you’re making me angry!”, we send the message that the other person’s feelings, needs and wants don’t matter. We create an imbalance in the relationship because it is likely that the receiver of our communication will feel too intimidated and fearful to speak their truth. Likewise, when we communicate passively, we also create an imbalance in the relationship because we feel too timid to speak our truth but may harbour resentment towards the other person instead. For example, I really wish I had the courage to tell you that I didn’t like the way you made a joke about my appearance in front of my colleagues, but I was too submissive to let you know, so I kept quiet then complained about you behind your back.
- Emotional intelligence: the ability to own your own emotions is a component of emotional intelligence, which is linked to more positive mental health, greater social skills, and successful leadership skills.
How can I own my feelings?
- Notice: the first step is to pay attention to the way you describe your feelings, and particularly what you attribute them to. Notice if you catch yourself saying “he made me feel so upset” or “she really pissed me off”
- Understand your emotions: all emotions act as guides to make us sit up and pay attention. Learn to appreciate and accept all emotions, because they serve a really useful purpose. For example, if I notice myself experiencing anger, it usually means that my boundaries have been violated in some way. Read more about emotions here
- Make space for emotions: rather than trying to suppress or ignore emotions, particularly the more difficult ones, make space to allow your emotions to breathe. The next time you feel a particularly strong emotion in relation to an event or situation, pay attention to where you feel the emotion most in your body. If you could give the emotion a colour, what would it be? Describe the weight of the emotion. There are a few activities you can try to help you get in touch with your emotions here
- Communicate assertively: practice using “I statements” which help you to express your feelings in a way that doesn’t blame others. You can read more about assertiveness and I statements here
- Stop engaging in comparisonitis: create your own expectations for how you would like to live your life. This is really about knocking the “shoulds” out of your vocabulary. It helps to be clear on what your values are, so that these can guide you like a moral compass. Here is an activity you can try to start getting clarity on your values
If you would like some personalised assistance to develop your emotional intelligence, contact me to discuss how my health coaching program can assist you to create your own roadmap to success.