“You’re really frustrating me.”
“Stop making me angry.”
Here’s an undervalued, rarely executed truth:
No one can make you feel anything.
When someone does something that causes you to feel any emotion, it’s not the other person that is causing it. You are creating it in your own mind.
Here’s a quick lesson on the ABCs of Attitude:
ABC = Affect. Behavior. Cognition.
Affect is what you’re feeling (anger, jealously, happiness, embarrassment, etc.)
Behavior is how you react — usually instantly and without you being aware of what you’re actually doing (but not always).
Cognition is your thoughts. It’s what you are telling yourself. This is where most of our problems lie, because depending on what we tell ourselves influences how we feel.
How it works
Although it’s ABC’s of Psychology, it doesn’t always follow that order.
- An event has to occur, say, someone cuts you off while you’re driving.
- Cognition kicks in; you tell yourself, “How dare they cut me off like that. What an asshole.” What you tell yourself also depends a lot on your beliefs. (Watch this video on rethinking thinking.)
- Then you feel anger (Affect). You feel anger because you told yourself “How dare they.” You expected something. That person may have not even noticed you or wasn’t aware they cut you off, but yet, you tell yourself they were out to get you.
- Behavior is your reaction. Many people will actually chase after the person, honk the horn, flip them the finger, etc. Why? Why commit to such fruitless actions that yield nothing but self-defeating behavior? Note: people don’t always react, but they still fabricate needless stress, which in turn, may affect their behaviors later.
How to tell yourself something different
If you haven’t read my latest free eBook, Reignite, there is a section in there which I called The Pause.
Ask any psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist and they will tell you that the cognition part is what we can control, with much practice.
Let me say that clearly: We can control what we tell ourselves, and in turn, change what we are feeling so that we aren’t burdened with negative feelings.
You have to pause when an event occurs. Sure you may tell yourself something instantly because it is a habit, but you can quickly reverse that feeling by pausing and telling yourself something different.
Let’s say someone calls you by a racial slur based on your ethnicity.
(Most) people will be very pissed off.
But is what the other person saying actually true? No. So why do we take offense to it?
Remember: it’s what you tell yourself. You don’t have to feel insulted — you feel insulted because you believe it or because you feel the need to defend yourself to prove something. Instead, I would say something like, “I find it hilarious that you would think I would even take offense to that.”
At that moment, I don’t feel what I originally felt (this takes practice). Instead, I realize that, no, I’m obviously not going to accept this person’s opinion about me. I am telling myself something different. I am now much better off feeling this way.
Pausing for even a few seconds is the stepping stone to reverse an outcome that is unfavorable to your mind and body.
Learn to pause before you react. Calm down. Breathe. Think it through. No one is expecting a response in 15 seconds. Pause for as long as you need to.
Realize that what you’re feeling is created by your own perception.
If you were to practice this everyday, do you think there would be a change in your life? Less stress? Less negative thoughts? Less self-defeating acts?
How much time do you spend per day by lending your mind to unnecessary bullshit, opinions, and criticisms? A lot of our suffering is due to the false realities we tell ourselves.
Imagine how many issues and self-dramatized illnesses would be diminished if most of the world were able to understand and execute that no one can make you feel anything; you are responsible for yourself, in every facet imaginable.
Bullies, psychiatrists, the pill business, self-help books, and everything alike would lose business.
There is no magic to better living. It all starts in your mind and then your actions. This is a phrase that is relentlessly repeated — in books, school textbooks, blogs, seminars, podcasts, health magazines, the Oprah show, etc. — but carrying this wisdom out is scarce.
In the most troubling of times, people are quick to discard their principles or the lessons they learned through books or mentors.
So if you’re looking for opportunity, here it is.
Now is the chance to start understanding that what you’re feeling, at this moment or whenever someone “pisses you off,” is simply based on what you tell yourself in your own mind.
Never forget: no one can make you feel anything. No one. Only you determine what you feel.
You are responsible, and in control, of how you think, feel, and act.
If there’s anything I learned in middle school that actually stuck with me, it’s a quote that my principal (Mr. Mitchell) used to say at the end of his morning announcements:
“Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.”