Can I hurt someone?
Can you make someone happy?
What do you think?
As a kid, have you been told that you’ll make your parents happy if you behave?
How about work, would you finish a task to avoid that others become angry at you?
Let’s go into some theory
In the 70’s Taibi Kahler found that having the idea that we can make someone else feel in a specific way or that others can influence us in such a way belongs to a set of methods used to justify staying in maladaptive behavior.
Kahler identified 4 such beliefs and called them “Myths”:
- I believe I can make you feel good emotionally
- I believe You can make me feel good emotionally
- I believe I can make you feel bad emotionally
- I believe You can make me feel bad emotionally
Whenever confronted with one of these myths, the underlying belief is, that one of both is superior or inferior compared to the other.
Think about sentences like “how did that make you feel?”, “this made me so angry!” or “that hurt my feelings.” These are invitations to think that some kind of external power can change how we feel.
So, what is the problem?
We use beliefs to position us in our relationships and as individuals. We shape our view of the world and the way we react and act through these beliefs. From there we create expectations and based on these we will review our beliefs. As humans have a tendency to look for confirmations of the original belief it often leads to Self-fulfilling prophecies and thus reinforcing beliefs.
In social theory, circular relationships between cause and effect are referred to as Reflexivity. The level of reflexivity can be used to describe how much we use the environment to shape ourselves, or let us be shaped by it. The other extent of the scale is autonomy and the ability of the individual to decide on his own norms, tastes, desires and so on.
Our ability to take our own decisions is the important detail in here.
This is what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when pointing out that “without our consent” it is not possible that someone else can make us feel inferior. Our environment, others can have an impact on us, and yet it us who then decide to be grateful, to feel happy, to feel sad, …
Benefiting from “Myths”
Myths can be easily observed. They show themselves in the way we communicate, the words we use, the sentences we craft.
Sentences like “this made me …” indicate an underlying belief that something or somebody can impact your feelings, whereas a sentence “You’ll like this …” shows a belief that it is possible to impact the feelings of someone else.
Whenever you detect such sentences, remember that there is a myth around. Decide by yourself how you want to feel or want continue feeling.
You’ll notice along the way how taking your own decisions can empower you. How you can empower yourself.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
[Original publication via frogstalk.com, April 29, 2014]