If we tell ourselves that someone else, or life circumstances, is responsible for our feelings or can be blamed for our feelings, we are not telling ourselves the truth. The truth is that WE are responsible for our feelings.  This answer probably does not match your experience, which is that when someone says something to us, when someone does something to us, or when events in the environment happen to us, it seems clear to us that our feelings are caused by those actions, words, or events; that is, surely our feelings are a natural response to what happened to us? Although this belief seems to be self-evident and it is a belief held by most of us, it is not true.  What causes our feelings is inside us, and takes the form of things we are saying to ourselves or associations in our mind between the current actions, words, or events and previous occurrences in our lives, that is, they remind us of a similar occurrence earlier in our life, an occurrence that led to a feeling similar to the feeling we are having in the present.  A few examples will support the conclusion that we are responsible for our feelings. First, if the same thing happened to 10 of us, the chances are high that the feelings experienced by us would be different for each of us, both because we will see the actions, words, or event differently, and also because we had different experiences in our earlier life which will be associated with current feelings.  For example, in the first instance someone might say something negative about us and we get angry, whereas someone else might find it funny and laugh. In the second instance, we might respond with fear because the previous times that the negative thing was said to us, we were hit soon afterward, whereas someone else might not feel afraid because they were never hit after they were told something negative about themselves.

There is a story about a drunk man under a streetlight that illustrates the basic principle being discussed. A man was walking by and noticed that an inebriated man was on his hands and knees under a streetlight and appeared to be looking for something.  He offered his help to the man, who told him that he was looking for his housekeys so he would be able to get into his home later that night.  The helpful man asked the other man where he had lost his keys and the man pointed to a nearby dark alley.  “If you lost them in the alley, why are you looking for them over here?”, the helpful man asked, to which the other man replied “because there is more light over here!”  We tend to look for the causes of our feelings in external circumstances and other people, because those are easier for us to see (more light), whereas the key to our feelings is inside us (more dark), so like the inebriated man, we are looking for the key where there is more light, even if the key to our feelings is not to be found there.

In addition to being wrong when we blame others for our feelings, we are also likely to create conflict and negative feelings when we blame others, which will likely lead to additional negative actions, words, and events directed toward us.  In addition, blaming others for our feelings and life conditions creates a “victim mentality” in us, and a sense of futile frustration, helplessness, and anger is associated with feeling like a victim, not a formula for a happy and successful life.

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