In today’s video, I’m going to respond to a viewer’s question of what to do when we feel like other people “makes us feel” a certain way.
Read on to learn more about how to stop “blaming my partner for retroactive jealousy.”
Zachary Stockill: Recently, I received a comment from someone we will call C. C writes…
How do I stop blaming my partner for retroactive jealousy and using that as an excuse to resist addressing my own negative behavior?
I’m going to use an example of my personal life to illustrate my broader perspective on this question of how to cope when it feels like other people “make us feel” a certain way.
So I received a nasty email recently. By the way, when you’re the “retroactive jealousy guy,” that is not uncommon, because this is a very charged emotional issue for a lot of people.
And people often project all kinds of nastiness onto you; they want to project their thoughts, fears, anger, and their pain onto someone else.
So I just received a nasty email from a retroactive jealousy sufferer who made all kinds of assumptions that weren’t true, and projections about me. And initially, I had an unpleasant reaction to that because I’m human, I’m like everyone else, and humans are social to the core, we want to be liked. We want other people to appreciate us.
Obviously, it’s not the most fun experience in the world when you get this kind of email. But how should I look at that situation? Should I look at that as this person making me feel bad? Absolutely not. This person is not making me feel anything. This person sent a nasty email and that’s the extent of what they did. This isn’t to make an excuse for what they did, and this isn’t to let them off the hook for being kind of a bad person, it’s simply to say, that’s all they did. That’s all they’re responsible for. They sent a nasty email out in the world, and my response to this email is 100% mine, 100% generated by me.
I can change my perspective, and I can change my emotional reaction to this email; no one can “make us feel” anything.
And we all use this expression; I’ve used this expression, you probably have to. And again, this isn’t to let people off the hook for being bad people, of course not. It is merely to say that our emotions are ours and the only way we can start working on them and changing them where necessary is when we accept responsibility and ownership so no one can “make us feel” a certain way.
There are two things that happen in life: there’s an event, and there’s our response or our reaction to that event.
But our response is not “embedded” within the event itself; that event doesn’t have that power over us because our response is a separate thing that we have a tremendous degree of control, a tremendous degree of power over. This was the great insight of Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the Holocaust in Europe, in World War Two, in one of the worst catastrophes in human history. Millions and millions of people died. It was an absolute nightmare. The worst conditions a human could ever experience.
The basic message of his book is that they can take everything away from you…
They can take away your home, family, clothes, they can starve you. They will not give you enough water to drink, they can take away your freedom–but they can’t take away your perspective.
And, they can’t take away your freedom, your inherent freedom to choose which perspectives you want to adopt based on the situation you’re in. To choose the thoughts that you choose to have on whatever situation you’re in, no matter how horrible it is. Reading Man’s Search for Meaning is a humbling experience, and it helps to put all your problems in perspective and help you create new and better reactions when you’re faced with a challenge in life, such as your partner doing something that isn’t so nice, or when someone sends you a nasty email, or whatever.
If Viktor Frankl can do that, and choose his perspectives, and have that insight in the middle of the Holocaust, I think I can respond in a better way to this nasty email that someone wrote me, because that nasty email has nothing to do with me. That person doesn’t know me; they’ve had extremely limited interactions with me.
They know a guy on YouTube, or a guy who has a blog, but they don’t know who I am…
And they’re going through all kinds of challenges that I have no idea about. The whole point is to realize that so many of our interactions with other people that are disappointing, frustrating, or even painful on the surface, actually have nothing to do with us.
My mother often reminded me that everyone is fighting their own battle that we have no idea about. So when that idiot cuts you off in traffic, or you get a nasty email from someone… Whatever happens, as much as possible, don’t take it personally, because it’s not personal. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
In dealing with situations and feeling like your partner’s making you feel a certain way, remember that no one can make you feel anything, and you can choose your reactions.
You can change your perspective, change your emotions, and try to change your response to different challenges and different events when they come up, realizing that you can’t take things personally because they’re not personal.
Furthermore, if you’re using your partner as your excuse or your partner’s behavior as an excuse to act in ways that you yourself deem negative, that’s a pretty good indication that you need to take greater ownership of your thoughts, actions, and behavior, realizing that no one can make you feel anything, and no one can make you do anything either.
Your situation will not improve until you take personal ownership and responsibility for your actions. Until then, the people who get locked in nightmare marriages and nightmare relationships that go on for far too long, where there’s endless chaos and drama and fighting, is when no one takes ownership. And it only takes one person to change the dynamic in any relationship. And again, this is not to absolve your partner of responsibility…
I’m quite sure they have their own work to do, but you can’t take ownership of their work for them. You can only take ownership of your own thoughts, actions, and your own work that you need to do on yourself, and nothing in your life will improve until you take 100% personal ownership of your situation in life, and by this, you will be able to stop blaming your partner for retroactive jealousy.