“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
The above quote is one I refer to often when working with people. The problem is never coming from the other person, but we continuously give away our power by putting the responsibility on someone else.
It is difficult to believe that the pain we can feel when interacting with another person is actually coming from us, but it is. It doesn’t matter what the action, if you feel an emotional reaction to it, know that it comes from you. Let’s do a short exercise just for the sake of clearing up this point.
For a minute, imagine the last person you became upset with. Got them in your head? Now, imagine that you are in an altercation with this person and they call you a “purple unicorn”.
They keep calling you a “purple unicorn” over and over again. Would it upset you being called a “purple unicorn”? My guess would be no. I have yet to run into a person who says being called a ‘purple unicorn’ feels damaging in some way.
Most people admit they would think that the other person was crazy because they know they are not a purple unicorn. I imagine you would say something close to that. In this example of another person calling you a “purple unicorn” you can see that the behavior is clearly about them.
Their actions are coming from them and it has no effect on you because you know you are not a “purple unicorn”.
But let’s change things around a bit. Let us change the name “purple unicorn” to something else. What if we changed it to “jerk”, “bitch”, “incompetent”, “selfish”, or any other name that gives us a little sting? Now we might be looking at a different story. We all have names we react to, but have you ever thought about why you react to them?
We react to “negative” things people say or do because it triggers a belief we already have about ourselves. “P.U. ” doesn’t affect you because you know you are not one, but other names do affect you because it is an idea we secretly harbor about ourselves. People can only supply a stimulus; how we react to this stimulus reflects a lot about our belief system.
Many people will respond by saying, “Well my partner doesn’t call me names. I am angry because he doesn’t do ______________(fill in the blank with what upsets you).
Some say they are upset because of the cheating, or lack of sex, or lack of attention. One often times looks at their partner and quickly evaluates them on how well they are doing as a partner by whether or not they give that person want they think they want. Very rarely does an individual take a second look and ask the important questions. Questions like: “Why do I believe I need my husband to listen to me (tell me I’m beautiful, tell me what a good job I’m doing, etc)?”, “Do I really need him to talk to me?”, “What would my day be like if I didn’t have the expectation that he should talk to me?”, Would I be happier without this thought?”.
When we refuse to take a deeper look we are left powerless and unhappy. We are letting our happiness ride on a factor we have no control over, someone else’s behavior.
If we begin to question, really question, why we think we need that other’s attention we can return to our only place of power- ourselves. Why do I need my partner to give me attention? If we truly look at this and want a real answer, we will get it.
Often times we don’t want a real answer. Often times we just want to be right. Many people answer angrily and says something like “because she’s my wife and she should be having sex with me 3 times a week”, or “I’m not crazy for wanting my husband to show me love” or fill in your choice answer that makes you look right. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”
When we truly want an answer to questions like “Why do I really need my partner’s attention?” we’ll start to get answers like: “Because I believe if someone doesn’t recognize my worth it’s not there”, or “I don’t feel lovable if someone does not show me attention”, or “I am putting my own desire for something over my partner’s desire to not do something. I am acting out of fear of not having enough and not from a place of love”.
It can seem impossible at times when we are hurt to start asking these questions with the hopes to get real answers. It is tempting to make ourselves “right”. When we are upset we feel like this is our only option if we want to heal. But being “right” rarely helps anyone. After the short-lived high wears off we are usually left with an uneasy feeling of isolation.