S2 EP90 – Who Takes Responsibility for Your Feelings?

Episode Summary

How do you respond to your own and others’ anger, hurt, anxiety, depression, fear, shame, and guilt? Do you believe you are responsible for causing these feelings in others, and others are responsible for causing your feelings? Discover some of the more common ways we dump our feelings onto others, and ways we take responsibility for others’ feelings, and what to do about this. 


If you were to pay careful attention to your emotions, you would discover, in your relationships with others, that it is often not another’s behavior that is creating your misery, or your inner peace or joy, but rather your own responses. When you respond to another’s unloving behavior with anger, blame, resistance, withdrawal, or compliance, you will likely end up feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed.

On the deeper level of your core existential painful feelings of life, others’ unloving behavior causes loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, and helplessness over them. But while their choices are responsible for causing these feelings, you, as an adult, are responsible for managing them. As children we could not manage this deep pain and we were victims of others’ choices, but as adults we all can learn to manage these painful feelings.

One of our greatest challenges is to understand what, as loving adults, personal responsibility means regarding our own feelings and behavior. This is especially difficult when someone is behaving in a way that feels unloving to us – attacking, blaming, lying, guilting, and so on. It is so easy to believe that your misery is coming from their behavior rather than from your own response to their behavior.

If you focus on Step 1 of Inner Bonding – which is getting present in your body with your feelings, and you pay careful attention to your feelings, you will discover that when you are willing to compassionately embrace your deeper painful feelings that are being caused by others or by events, without protecting against them with your own unloving behavior, you do not feel anxious, depressed, stressed or miserable. When you fully embrace the sadness, sorrow, loneliness, grief, heartache, heartbreak, and helplessness concerning others and events, you move through these core painful feelings very quickly and into feeling peaceful.

If, as an adult, you are miserable in the face of another’s unloving behavior, it is not their behavior that is creating your misery, but rather your own unloving response toward yourself and others. 

For example, if you respond to another’s anger by getting angry back rather than taking care of yourself through the intent to learn or lovingly disengaging, your inner child will not feel safe. You have not responded from your loving adult in a way that makes you feel inwardly safe. Instead, you have responded from your wounded self, trying to have control over the other’s behavior. Since the other is likely to respond with more anger or withdrawal, your inner child ends up feeling unsafe and upset from the interaction.

I discovered that whenever I did not take care of myself when being treated badly – such as lovingly disengaging from the interaction and compassionately embracing the core painful feelings – or I responded with anger or blame to another’s anger or blame, I felt awful. It was so easy to think I felt awful because of how I was being treated by the other person rather than because of how I was treating myself and the other person. Now, when I respond to another’s anger, blame or other violating behavior by either moving into an intent to learn, offering comfort, or disengaging without anger, shaming, or blaming, and then tend to my core pain, I feel safe and peaceful. It is deeply gratifying to me to know that my feelings are always my responsibility because then I can do something about feeling badly – I can practice responding lovingly no matter what.

A number of years ago, on one of my morning walks while doing Inner Bonding and dialoguing with my spiritual Guidance, she told me that one of my soul’s lessons is to learn to respond lovingly no matter what – no conditions under which it is okay to respond unlovingly. At the time, I found this very challenging. As soon as I got it right in one situation, my Guidance arranged for me to be challenged by new situations. This appears to be the way our souls grow when we have opted for spiritual growth. However, we are never given more than we can handle, and each time I learned to respond lovingly in a new situation, my inner child felt more and more loved, safe, and valued.

It is so easy to revert to your wounded self and claim that this time your feelings are not your responsibility. This time it really is the other person’s fault. This time they have gone too far, and no one could expect you to feel okay in this situation. But each time you keep your loving adult present and take loving care of your inner child’s core feelings, the lesson hits home anew – all your feelings really are your responsibility.

Those of you who have been listening to my podcast or learning about Inner Bonding know that there are two kinds of feelings – the feelings we cause by our self-abandonment, which we call our wounded feelings, and the feelings caused by others and situations. 

Many of us grew up believing that others or situations cause our wounded feelings – our anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, aloneness, emptiness, or jealousy – and that we cause others wounded feelings. We may have heard from our parents, “You make me angry,” or “You’re upsetting me,” or “You’re making me sick.” While, as I just spoke about, others and situations cause our existential painful feelings of life – our heartbreak, grief, loneliness, and helplessness over others and outcomes – it may be difficult to understand that the feelings of our wounded self are caused by our own thoughts and actions.

What are your beliefs about responsibility for yours and others wounded feelings? 

If you tend to be caretaker, then you likely believe that you are responsible for others’ wounded feelings. 

  • Do you believe that you are responsible for other people’s feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, and so on, and that therefore, you should never do anything – even if it’s something that makes you happy and is not intended to hurt anyone – if it upsets another
  • Do you believe that it’s up to you to make the people you care about happy?

  • Do you believe that when others around you are unhappy, it’s your fault or your responsibility to do something about it?

  • Do you believe that if you don’t take responsibility for others’ happiness and unhappiness, you’re not a caring person?

  • Do you believe that if you take responsibility for your own happiness instead of putting others’ feelings first, you’re being selfish?

  • Do you believe that if other people are angry at you, you must be making them feel that way and you’re responsible for fixing their feelings?

  • Do you believe that it’s your responsibility to heal wounded people?

As a caretaker, you may believe that you are being caring and loving when you take responsibility for another’s feelings. But caretaking is just another way to attempt to have control over how others feel about you and treat you. Caretaking is a way the wounded self tries to feel safe.

There is a very big difference between “caring” and “caretaking”.

Caring (and caregiving) comes from the loving adult and has no agenda attached. It’s a free gift. Caretaking always has an unspoken agenda attached: “If I take care of your feelings, then you will love me or not be upset with me.” As a caretaker, you abandon your own inner child to take care of the other’s inner child in the hopes that the other will then take care of your feelings.

Caretaking is unloving, not only because it has an agenda attached, but because taking responsibility for others’ feelings enables others not to take responsibility for themselves. It supports the wounded self’s ways of believing and behaving instead of supporting others in becoming loving to themselves.

If you tend to be a taker, then you likely believe that others are responsible for your feelings. 

  • Do you believe that if someone cares about you, he or she will never do anything that upsets you?
  • Do you believe that you can’t take emotional care of yourself – that you need someone to make you feel worthy and safe?

  • Do you believe that you can’t be alone – that you feel like you’ll die if you’re alone?

  • Do you believe that when you’re upset, it’s someone else’s fault?

  • Do you believe that it’s up to other people to make you feel good about yourself by approving of you and doing what you want?

  • Do you believe that you’re not responsible for your feelings – that other people make you feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, shut down, or depressed?

  • Do you believe that when you’re angry, someone makes you feel that way and is responsible for fixing your feelings?

  • Do you believe that you’re not responsible for your behavior – that other people make you yell, act crazy, get sick, laugh, cry, get violent, leave, or fail?

  • Do you believe that others are selfish if they do what they want instead of what you want?

  • Do you believe that if you’re not connected to someone, you will die?

All these beliefs come from the wounded self who really cannot take care of you. When you believe you are your wounded self, then these beliefs seem true. When you do your Inner Bonding work, develop your loving adult, and learn to see, value, and love yourself, then you know that you are not a victim of others’ choices, that others do not cause your wounded feelings and behavior, and that you will not die if you are alone or if someone disconnects from you.

Unfortunately, many of us were raised to believe that we are responsible for others’ feelings, and they are responsible for ours. I hear this over and over from my clients.

For example, my client, Chuck, told me in one of our sessions: “My wife is so upset that I have to travel more on my new job. She feels so alone and lost when I’m gone. When I talk with her, she is either crying or angry. I feel so badly and guilty, but I don’t know what to do.”

“Do you feel responsible for her feelings?” I asked him. “Do you feel that you are the cause of her feelings?”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course.” 

My client Jeanette told me, “I’m just starting to date again after my divorce and I’m having a hard time with it. I just don’t know how to let a man know that I’m not interested in dating him anymore, or in pursuing a sexual relationship with him. It feels like such a sticky situation.”

“Is it sticky because you are worried about his feelings?” I asked.

“Yes. The last man I dated hung his head and looked so distressed when I asked him to leave. I know that he was really attracted to me, and I wasn’t at all attracted to him. I felt so awful that he was so hurt.”

“Did you feel responsible for his feelings?”

“Well, yeah. If I reject him, aren’t I responsible for him feeling rejected?”  

My client Alissa told me, “My 14-year-old daughter is so angry at me for the divorce, even though she knows we are divorcing because of all my husband’s affairs. I feel so guilty, even though I am not the one who had the affairs.”

“Do you feel responsible for her feelings?” I asked

“Yes, of course!” she said.

The wounded self wants to believe we cause others’ feelings as a form of control.

Believing that you CAUSE others’ feelings and are therefore responsible for them is a common false belief. As I previously said, some of our feelings, such as heartbreak and grief from losing a loved one, or helplessness over others, or loneliness when we want to share love with another and no one is available, are caused by others and by life events. And if we deliberately do something to harm others, we are responsible for our actions. But our wounded feelings are caused by our own thoughts and actions. If Chuck’s wife is abandoning herself by not attending to her own feelings, or by judging herself, or by making Chuck responsible for her, then she will feel alone and angry at Chuck. It is not Chuck who is abandoning her – she is abandoning herself. Since there is nothing Chuck can do about the fact that his wife is abandoning herself, he cannot possibly take responsibility for her feelings. 

But he CAN take responsibility for his own feelings. As long as Chuck is telling himself the lie that he is responsible for his wife’s feelings, he will feel upset and guilty. His guilty feeling is his inner child’s way of letting him know that he is telling himself a lie. Judging yourself when you haven’t done anything wrong creates toxic guilt. Healthy guilt is when we have actually done something wrong, but Chuck isn’t doing anything wrong in needing to travel for work.

If Chuck or Jeanette or Alissa were to take responsibility for their own feelings instead of someone else’s, they would say to themselves, “I WANT responsibility for causing my feelings of guilt. What is the lie I am telling myself that is causing my guilt? Oh, I’m telling myself that I’m responsible for the other person’s feelings (the wife, the date, the daughter), and the fact that it is causing me to feel guilty is letting me know that this is not true.” Then they would open to learning with their higher guidance about the truth – that we cannot take responsibility for others’ feelings. We can certainly be kind, gentle, caring, and considerate, which is part of taking responsibility for ourselves, but no matter how loving we are, we cannot take responsibility for what others tell themselves and how they treat themselves that causes their fear, anxiety, aloneness, emptiness, anger, hurt, or depression.

We have all learned many ways of trying to avoid or get rid of our painful feelings. Many of these ways are fairly obvious, such as addictions to substances and activities, or staying in your mind rather than in your body or judging yourself.

Another major way we avoid or try to get rid of our painful feelings is making others responsible for them in various ways. When we are filled with painful feelings and are not open to our guidance to help us learn from them and release them, we might then dump them on others in various ways, in an effort to release them. So how do you dump your feelings onto another?

  • Do you yell at, judge, or blame someone, hoping they will understand how much you’re hurting and change what they are doing; or that they will be compassionate, caring and approving; or that they will give you permission to do something you want to do, but that you’re not allowing yourself to do?
  • Do you calmly and relentlessly complain about something over and over, badgering the other person, with the hope that they will say just the right thing to release the painful feelings in you? Do you believe that if they agree with you, or change, or acknowledge what they are doing, you will feel better? Even if they do say the “right” thing, do you keep at it, because it’s never right enough?

  • Do cry as a pathetic victim, hoping the other person will feel badly enough to give you the compassion you not giving to yourself, or that they will stop doing what they are doing that is hurting you, so that you don’t have to take loving action for yourself?

  • Do you talk on and on, addictively, hoping that if you talk enough and get enough attention from the other person, your pain will release?

  • Do you shut down and withdraw your love from the other person, hoping they will feel badly enough to change and give you the understanding and compassion you’re not giving to yourself?

  • Do you try to have sex with your partner to release your stress or to feel better about yourself?

What happens in your relationships when you do any of these addictive, controlling behaviors? While these wounded, self-abandoning behaviors may work temporarily to distract you from your pain, they all result in more disconnection and loneliness between you and those important to you. While it might seem as if the pain subsides when you dump your feelings onto others, all that really happens is that the feelings go deeper within and get stuck in your body, causing many physical and emotional problems.

The alternative is to do Inner Bonding: opening to learning about how you are causing your wounded feelings, learning about what your core existential feelings are telling you about a person or a situation, bringing love and comfort inside from your spiritual guidance, and releasing the feelings in ways that don’t hurt you or others – crying while holding your inner child, doing an anger process or being willing to release your feelings to spirit. All these ways of managing your feelings will create much more release than dumping them out on another person.

When you take responsibility for learning to manage your own painful feelings, learning from them and releasing them in healthy ways, then you can be present with others with an open heart. You no longer need to use others to get rid of your painful feelings. When two people in a relationship are each taking responsibility for their own feelings in healthy ways, their relationship flourishes in love, passion, fun, learning, growth, and joy.

What would change in your life if you decided that you WANT responsibility for your feelings and not for others’ feelings? If you really made this decision, you would stop being a caretaker by taking responsibility for others’ feelings, and you would stop being a taker by making others responsible for your feelings.

You would be free to be truly loving to yourself and share your love with others. Imagine the possibilities of that!

I hope you join me in my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

You can learn much about healing all your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course:Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.

For an in-depth and inexpensive way of learning to love yourself and heal your relationship, see my books: The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance,and Diet for Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connection

And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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