Marriage Advice

Who Owns Your Emotions?

I told my children as they were growing up, “Don’t give anyone the power to control your emotions!”

How many times have you heard someone say, “That person makes me SO MAD”?  Sometimes it is stated, “As soon as that guy walks into the room he gets me angry.” I have listened to many people use the expression, “He made me blow my top!”  What I challenged my kids to think about was this: Why would you ever give control over your emotions to someone else?

Allowing someone to make you mad simply makes them your superior. In the Navy a superior officer could order you to do certain things, but a person below your own rank did not have that option.  Why would you allow someone who you are having problems with order you around?

Your emotions should stay as your own emotions.

You need to play a game when you feel your emotional temperature rising.  The game is called, “Who Owns the Problem?”  The rules of the game are very simple.  You start off by asking a very important question, “Did I have any responsibility in making the situation so emotional?”  The honesty of your answer is of critical importance!  You must NOT fudge the truth of the situation.  If the answer is even partially “Yes”, then you have work to do. You have apologies to make or repairs to relationships that must be undertaken. You must stand up and take the responsibility for whatever was done or not done that made the situation so tense and angry. Make it right. Do your very best to make the person you are having problems with know that you want it to be right again. If it doesn’t work the first time, keep at it. Big problems require big commitments to get it straightened out!

Once in a while, You are not the reason for the tensions!

It is so good to hear that someone else is the reason people are upset! It is at that point when you ask your question, “Who Owns the Problem?” that you can relax and not get caught up in trying to “fix” something that someone else caused.  Please remember that your emotions must stay as your emotions.  Don’t let someone else pull you into every issue. What follows is a list of some of the personality styles of people who are often successful in pulling you into sharing their emotions.

There are people who are “problem makers”. They just seem to create problems everywhere they go.  There are others who are “problem spreaders”. They like to fan a little problem into a nice wild fire if they can. There are people who are “blame shifters”.  They never found a problem they could not find someone to blame it on! There are “poor me” people who know they were the source of the tensions but try to put the responsibility to “circumstances beyond my control”.  They are the “victims” in every circumstance so they don’t have to stand up and take responsibility for their words or deeds. There are people who just seem “dead to the world” and don’t even know when they hurt people’s feelings. They have been doing it so long it doesn’t feel like it is a problem for them.

So Remember:

When you answer the question and find out that the other person has primary ownership of the problem, you must stay cool. If you get caught up in the emotions of the moment, you find yourself taking sides in arguments or adding up the totals on lists of offenses by each side. You can’t really help anyone if you are already on one side or the other. Remember “who owns the problem” and you won’t get trapped into feeling the same anger and frustration over and over again.

Why is this lesson included in a Marriage Help posting?

In case you haven’t noticed, most of the people who have the power to stir up your emotions most frequently are your closest friends and family members.  Sometimes it is your spouse, but many times the issues come from other family members who seem to draw everyone into the fray. I have taught this lesson using words that could be applied to anyone we know who always seems to be in the middle of a crisis.  The lesson applies just as well if you are having problems with your spouse or Great Uncle Harry!

Photo credit: Sam Pullara licensed under Creative Commons.

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