Remember this one thing: you are not responsible for anyone’s emotions. So how do we respond when someone blames us for how they’re feeling? Or when they get mad for seemingly no reason at us? Let’s explore emotional accountability/responsibility together:
Why should we be emotionally responsible?
When you feel things you don’t particularly want to feel: sadness, anger, etc, you don’t want to keep them, right? What many people do in response to those negative emotions is to place them on others. Getting angry or finding ways to equate strong emotions with actions of another person is called “emotional projection” and it is a type of defense mechanism.
Not to worry- everyone has had experiences with this, we likely learned it in adolescence! However, if this pattern remains unchecked, it could lead to problems such as decreases in self worth, unhealthy relationships, and poor communication and coping strategies. Additionally, your mental health can take a hit as well, where emotional projection can lead to insecure attachment styles and a negative outlook on the interactions you have with others.
How do we do this?
The one thing you truly have control over is your own emotions. Think about a time someone tried to change someone else's opinion. How’d it go? Usually, it’s a long process filled with heated conversation and at worst, arguments and frustration. At the end of the day, the first step at becoming emotionally responsible is coming to terms with having limited control over others, how they feel, their beliefs, etc. This is a good set up to disengage from feelings of guilt for how others are feeling and potentially saving yourself from arguments.
But remember, our actions do have consequences. In addition to knowing the little control we have over the feelings of others, know the amount of control we have over our actions. You don’t know how your actions could affect others so show up for others when they need it, and lead by example and with compassion.
No one is a mind reader!
The way we use our words is powerful. It’s good practice to explain to others when their actions have caused you negative feelings. However, to be emotionally responsible, you must do it in a way that doesn’t blame the other person. Using “I” statements is a great way to do so! For example, saying “I feel upset when you don’t respond to me”.
But don’t stop there! Continue these statements by stating your needs to be able to help the person be able to understand how to better help you. For example, saying “I feel upset when you don’t respond to me, would you please send me a text and update me from time to time?” This allows for an open line of communication and a space where everyone can share their needs and perspective. It prevents misunderstandings from happening and by clearly stating one’s needs; it limits assumptions and jumping to conclusions from happening.
Do some self reflection
We must take care to know the impact of our own thoughts. Your feelings are valid, especially when the actions of others may have hurt you, however analyzing your thoughts can reveal problematic ways of thinking. For example, if someone is late to a meeting, some may think in extremes, “all or nothing” thinking. “I always have bad days, no one is ever reliable” thoughts like this can lead to a decrease in self esteem, compassion, and unhealthy relationships.
When you are hurt from another person’s actions, feel your feelings however challenge whether they’re based on reality or blown out of proportion. Try to be as objective as possible and reevaluate the impacts of your thoughts, grounding yourself. Care for your mind, own up to when your thoughts are unrealistic and train yourself to calm your thoughts in order to be grounded in reality.
It’s okay to be wrong
We all make mistakes, but emotional projection makes it so that we can come up with a million excuses to make it seem like it truly wasn’t our own fault; however, to be emotionally responsible is to own up to your mistakes. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and apologize for when you’ve wronged someone. It will help create a trusting relationship and an open line of communication. Putting this into practice can help make becoming emotionally responsible easier.
Putting an emphasis on self care could also help with combating emotional projection. Self care could reveal different, more healthy ways to be able to cope with difficult feelings rather than emotional projection that could help create a better foundation for relationships and coping strategies.
This is a long process!
Don’t expect this to happen overnight! Unlearning things are much easier said than done and it's a long process that takes practice and intentionality. Don’t get discouraged when you forget a few steps or could have approached a situation differently. Just remember that baby steps in the right direction are still steps forward! Be proud of your achievements big and small.