Do People Make You Feel Certain Emotions? Do you really have a choice as to how you respond?

Catherine Pratt

Are quotes like this true?

I'm sure you've heard the above quote by Eleanor Roosevelt before as well as other similar ones. They tell you that you have a choice as to how you feel, that other people can't "make" you feel anything. They say we choose how to feel which means that nobody can "make" us angry or upset or whatever. They say it's just that choosing is not easy in the moment but ultimately we make the final decision as to how we feel.

But, is this true?

To some extent it's true but I also disagree with that logic and here's why I feel that way.

It's in the intention

People say things with the intention of making the other person feel something whether that's guilt, anger, self-doubt, anxiety, or on the other extreme, hope, or maybe even good about themselves after experiencing a disappointment.

So, when they make the comments you feel the emotion. You can then choose to disregard the comment or choose to feel something else but you will still go through the initial emotion. And that may take a lot of effort mentally, emotionally, and physically having to process through it all and deciding how you want to react to the situation.

So, the emotion is triggered prior to having a chance to choose. It's after that when you can step back and then perhaps go in a different direction consciously. And that does take effort.

Harder For Others

This processing of the words can also be harder for people who've had  invalidating childhoods or relationships because they have to go through so much more processing than the normal person. They were trained from an early age to believe the negative comments about themselves and hearing the comments again can cause initial feelings like self-doubt, anguish, guilt, or anger until they have a chance to properly process through the emotions.

Highly sensitive people may also find it harder to process the comments because they're also picking up on the emotions of the other person.

There are also highly skilled people, con men and narcissists for example, who have spent years mastering which words to use in order to achieve a certain reaction from people.

Or think of all the advertising you're exposed to on a daily basis. The people behind the creation of those ads have studied human psychology traits for a long time in order to make sales. It's their job to make you buy something and they're going to use every trick they know and that includes trying to make you feel a certain way.

Even something that's supposed to be unbiased like the news is carefully crafted to make you continue watching. There's a reason why you've probably heard the slogan, "If it bleeds, it leads." Fear mongering and trying to create emotional outrage against certain events is how some newscasts create a loyal following.

So, it may not be easy to not let a comment get to you at first because it's the other person's intention to create a specific reaction in you.

Also, if you're healing from low self-esteem because you've been told your entire life that you should feel guilty or bad about yourself then when you hear those words again, you may start thinking, "Maybe they're right. Maybe all this new stuff I've been thinking, it's not true at all. Maybe their comments are true and I'm just kidding myself. Maybe I am unlovable." This can happen especially at the beginning of your healing journey if you don't have a strong support network to provide positive feedback as you develop new mental pathways.

If you're not aware of this then it can turn into a mental battle inside yourself. But, this is the key, awareness. And understanding how and why you react to certain trigger words.

Yes, You Do Have A Choice

The key point to the famous Roosevelt quote is that you do have a choice. That's the most important part to remember. But don't beat yourself up if you do initially feel a negative emotion after someone says something to you.

It's important to not get caught up in blaming the other person for how you feel. That kind of thinking won't get you anywhere.

The trick is to pay attention to how you feel and then make the decision if that is how you want to react to the situation. It's your awareness which will give you the option to choose. If you simply react on auto-pilot if you feel hurt or angry for example, then you're allowing the other person to control your thoughts and emotions and this isn't what you want.

Learning about other personalities and how they try to manipulate other people can be helpful because it gives you an understanding of how they view the world and why you react to them the way you do. So, you may need to read up on narcissists (blamers),

emotionally absent or rejecting parents (#ad), how advertising works, or even how to cope with Complex Post Traumatic Stress from dealing with stressful relationships.

It's also important to remember that you have a choice as to who you share your thoughts and feelings with. Perhaps it's a sign that you need to find other people to share your life with.

Or if you find yourself constantly buying things that don't bring you happiness, maybe you need to look at reducing your interaction with specific advertising. For example you could cancel a subscription to a certain magazine if you find yourself often getting into negative thinking patterns after reading it.

By paying attention to your feelings, you may also realize that you feel more frightened or scared about life after watching certain tv shows. Seeing too many murders may start to sink into your mindset and affect how you see the world around you. You can definitely choose to watch something else.

Another tip is that if you find you're constantly being influenced by the comments by others then you may also need to work on setting up stronger personal boundaries. You decide what will and will not be acceptable to you from others and once you've made that decision, you stick to them. You don't allow people to speak to you in ways you find unacceptable. If they're not willing to do that then you don't need to be willing to allow that person in your life.

The bottom line is that you do always choose how you feel. That is something no one else can take away from you. The trick though is being constantly aware of how you're feeling so you can make that choice.

If you're not aware then you're not making the choices that are best for you.

Your greatest self-defense tool against others that are not supporting you in how you want to feel is your journey of self-discovery. The more you truly understand yourself and the world around you, the more centered you will always be no matter what anyone else says to you.

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