Put Yourself On the Hook

There is certainly an appeal to allowing emotions to take over—it gets us off the hook and makes someone or something besides us responsible. Most of us think that other people, events, and circumstances cause us to feel a certain way. For example, “If my boss wasn’t such a jerk, I’d be happy and productive at work.” Or “Ugh, it’s such a cold, cloudy day that I just feel yucky.”

My kids are slowly learning about taking responsibility for their emotions. The other night after I told my daughter it was her brother’s turn to do something, she shouted at me, “You are frustrating me!” She didn’t want to take turns. I responded, “Honey, I know it may seem like I’m frustrating you, but actually you’re choosing to be frustrated. It’s your brother’s turn. That’s it. You can choose to let this go, or you can choose to be frustrated. It’s up to you. And whatever you choose, it’s still your brother’s turn.” I nestled up beside her as she pouted and sighed, making it clear that she wanted me to change my mind and say it was her turn. I continued rubbing her back to send the message that I wasn’t going to change my mind and that I love her no matter what.

Now, this is not the beginning of the self-help era. Many of us know that it’s not wise or effective to blame others and circumstances for our reactions and where we’re at in life. But why do we continue to do it? Why is it so seductive? Why is it so addictive?

Not only do we let ourselves off the hook for being responsible, but we live in a culture in which the media promotes people being on wild, emotional elephant rides. Television shows are full of people living animated, drama-filled lives. And we watch them. For goodness sake, if there was no drama, most people would say the show is boring. Tabloids and magazines are full of stories about family feuds, legal battles, personal secrets, celebrity gossip, etc. It’s a vicious circle. The more we watch the shows on television and buy the magazines on the shelves, the more money companies make… and so more of these dramatic television shows and magazines are created for us. If the dramatic material sells and makes money, more dramatic material is created. (For a deeper, and highly interesting look at this notion, read the book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom.)


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