You make me SO mad!
“You make me SO mad!” she screamed at me through crocodile tears, then she turned on her heels and stomped off. My six-year-old’s words hit a nerve with me. Exasperated by her finger-pointing, I followed her and gently– through gritted teeth– reminded her that it was her actions that had brought down her undesired consequences. “Nobody can make you mad, darling,” I said with an air of superiority. “You are responsible for your own emotions and reactions to things.” She rolled her eyes and huffed away again, and as I turned and walked away myself, I couldn’t help but hear a condemning inner voice saying to me, “Hypocrite!”
The truth is I make such statements to my husband and my kids all the time: “You make me so mad! You make me feel guilty. I have to yell because you don’t listen! You make me miserable when you do that!” Seems like “Mom” needs to heed her own words. In my heart, I know that what I said to my daughter is true; nobody can make me feel or do anything. Other people can behave poorly around me. They can do things that any sane person would find frustrating. They can act selfishly or rudely or abusively. They can ignore me. They can undermine me. They can betray me. But they cannot control how I react or feel about myself or the situation. Only I have that power. The question that I must continually ask myself is, “How much of my power am I going to give away this time?”
A few days ago, one of my online profiles got hacked. It created a hassle and struck great fear in me while I struggled to find out if any sensitive information had been compromised. “Some jerk ruined my night with my kids!” I lamented. “Now I have to deal with this instead of enjoying dinner and games with my family like I planned. People like that just piss me off!” Instead of remaining calm and simply solving the problem, I cursed and lashed out at everyone around me who tried to help. I allowed myself to get all worked up, which only clouded my thinking and prolonged the misery. I allowed the situation to determine my response, instead of allowing my response to resolve the situation. I gave up my power to the prankster.
When you are dealing with difficult people – particularly with alcoholics or addicts or those suffering from mental illness who may not always be thinking or behaving rationally – it is easy to give up your power over your own happiness, serenity, and peace. Guard against that! Awareness is the key. You can’t choose how people act around you or toward you. You can’t stop hardships from coming your way. You can’t control what words people will say to you or what tone they will use with you. But you CAN control what YOU do, how YOU respond, what YOU say, how YOU feel. You CAN find peace in the biggest storm and joy amid the most devastating pain. Nobody “makes” you do or feel anything – except you!
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