One of our greatest challenges is to understand what it means to take personal responsibility for 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 our unhappy feelings are coming from their behavior rather than from our own response to their behavior.
If we pay careful attention to our feelings, we will discover that it is not another’s behavior that is creating our unhappiness but rather our own unloving response. When we respond to another’s unloving behavior by getting angry, blaming, withdrawing, complying, or ignoring it, we will likely end up feeling badly. Our own unloving behavior towards another is also unloving toward our own Inner Child. For example, if we respond to another’s anger by getting angry back rather than setting an appropriate limit against being attacked, our Inner Child will not feel safe. We have not responded from our loving Adult in a way that leads to being treated respectfully. Instead, we have responded from our wounded self, trying to have control over the other’s behavior. Since the other is likely to respond with more anger or withdrawal, our Inner Child ends up feeling badly from the interaction.
I have discovered that whenever I do not set good limits against being treated badly – such as disengaging from the interaction and stating that I don’t want to talk when there is anger or blame – or I respond with anger or blame to another’s anger or blame, I feel awful. It is so easy to think I feel awful because of how I have been treated by the other person rather than because of how I am treating myself and others. When my Adult is present and I respond to another’s anger, blame or other violating behavior by either moving into an intent to learn and/or setting an appropriate limit without anger, shaming or blaming, I feel terrific. In fact, I feel on top of the world. It has been 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.
On one of my morning walks while 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. I find this very challenging. As soon as I get it right in one situation, my Guidance arranges 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 manage to respond lovingly in a new situation, my Inner Child feels more and more loved, safe, and valued.
It is so easy to revert to our wounded self and claim that this time my feelings are not my responsibility. This time it really is the other person’s fault. This time they have gone too far and no one could expect me to feel okay in this situation. But each time I manage to keep my Adult present and take good care of my Inner Child, the lesson hits home anew — all my feelings really are my responsibility.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?”, “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?”, “Healing Your Aloneness”, “Inner Bonding”, and “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?” Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org