You are not responsible for their experience. This is a lesson that I have been working through recently. In fact, I hesitated posting this article because I’m worried about the reactions that I might receive being open about my own struggles. However, I am not responsible for your experience so I am going to share it with an open heart in the hopes that it holds a glimmer of truth that will help you.
I have noticed how often I apologize. I say I am sorry about the most insignificant things. I say I’m sorry when I, in fact, do not feel at all sorry. It is as though I am making myself small and playing down the importance of my actions and opinions. It is almost a way to belittle myself to ensure that those around me do not feel threatened and react poorly. Not only is this disempowering, but I also turn into the boy who cried wolf. When I am genuinely sorry, my apology holds little significance because I go around crowing “sorry” all the time.
I also noticed how often I ask, “Are you mad at me?”, whenever anyone is in anything other than a stellar mood. I am terrified of people being angry with me – of not loving me – so I am quick to double check. That way I can change my behavior, apologize, and try to manipulate them into a mood that makes me feel safer and comforted. I do not want to be the cause of their upset and I certainly don’t want to lose any close relationships because of my behavior.
I also try to manipulate the love and attention I seek by doing things to gain recognition. I want to be praised for doing the dishes. I want to be noticed for folding the laundry. I want to be thanked for paying the bills. When this recognition and positive feedback does not come from the actions alone, I make a point to mention all that I have done. I want to feel loved and I am looking for it by trying to force the responses that I expect.
All of these are ways of trying to manipulate someone else’s behavior so that I can have the emotional response that I want. The truth is, I can’t be responsible for their experience. I cannot control their moods, attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, or actions to create an outcome that I desire. And just as I can’t be responsible for their experience, they also can’t be responsible for mine. I am responsible for the way I choose to respond. I have to learn to do me and let them do them.
Do you ever use your behavior or words as a way to manipulate others? How often do you do something to gain a reaction – whether positive or negative? How often are you frustrated when you didn’t get the reaction that you were trying to illicit?