“You Make me So Mad”: How PERSONAL BELIEFS Keep You Stuck
Have you ever told someone, “You make me so mad?” Of course, you have! We all have. In my speeches, I often ask audiences this question and I ask individuals in the audience to raise their hand if they have ever said this.
Most, but not all, raise their hands. At that point, I asked the audience to look around at the people who did not have their hands raised. These people, I pronounce with authority, are “lying through their teeth!” We all have a good laugh.
Yes, we have all said “You make me so mad,” but it simply is not an accurate statement. Nobody can make you mad. If someone cuts you off in traffic, do you feel angry? Very likely. But what you choose to do with that emotion is completely and totally under your control. Emotions just “are.” Reactions to those emotions are a choice.
I feel angry!
Saying “I feel anger” is a world apart from saying “You make me so mad.” I know this may seem like inconsequential word splitting, but it isn’t. It isn’t trivial because the root of the two statements nourishes a totally different belief system. And beliefs are powerful because they drive our behavior.
Let’s Compare Two Belief Systems
The belief system of “You make me so mad” is not that far from the belief system of an abusive spouse. What?! You say! I would never lift a finger to hurt someone I love! Well, you have the same belief system as an abuser. Do I have your attention?
The Abuser and the Abused
The abuser comes home. Let’s say the spouse is a stay-at-home mom. The house is a mess and the kids are crying on the floor in need of diaper changes and supper is not ready. The tension starts to build, they fight, and he hits her. (Pardon the use of the pronoun “he.” We all know that abusers come from both genders.)
Typically, what follows is a period of remorse and reunion and he says, “I’m sorry I hit you. You know I wouldn’t have to hit you if you would keep the house clean, the kids changed and the supper cooked.”
I know you may find this hard to believe but the Abuser really believes that the only way for him to stop “having to hit her” is for her to do things better. He feels as “helpless” as she does and is controlled by her.
She, being part of this belief system, buys into it and thinks, “Well, next time, I will try to do better.” She then increases her efforts, so he won’t “have to hit her.”
Now, this line of thinking may seem absurd to you because you know that a dirty house and being hit have nothing to do with each other. If the house was clean, dirty, or anywhere in between, he didn’t have to hit her.
The Core Belief System
To a non-abusive couple, this scenario is ridiculous; but how different is this scenario from believing that if someone doesn’t do what you want him or her to do, you “have” to yell and scream because “you made me so mad?” And the other person believes that he/she must walk on eggshells and do better next time so you won’t yell and scream? Each person in the “dance” reinforces the behavior of the other person. Neither one fully grasps individual responsibility nor “Choice Therapy” as one of my favorite psychiatrists, William Glasser, calls it.
Nobody can control you but you
Nobody can make you mad. Nobody can make you do anything. You are an agent of free will.
Are you influenced by others? Of course. You cannot NOT be influenced. Behavior is contagious. You are influenced, but not controlled. All your reactions and actions are your responsibility. Period. So, make good choices. Good choices lead to good conflict resolution skills, which leads to good relationships.