Why it’s all About You (Except when it Isn’t)

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Last week, I told you it wasn’t about you.

And that’s true.  Except when it is.

This week I want to cover how to know when it is about you, and what to do about it.    Ownership is really important, but we get into trouble if we take ownership of the wrong things.  I’ve been in more than one emotionally abusive relationship because I took ownership of the wrong things, and/or failed to be responsible for the right things.  And taking responsibility is really what we’re talking about here.

When you find yourself:

  • wanting to protect or rescue someone from unpleasant emotions or consequences
  • saying to someone else “You make me feel_________”
  • saying “I need you to ________” when you make requests or give instructions
  • overreacting to circumstances without knowing why

In all of these situations, it’s about you.  If you find yourself wanting to protect or rescue a loved one, that is your issue.   What does being needed by them do for you?  (notice that this strategy denies them the opportunity to take responsibility, perpetuating the cycle of co-dependence).

If you find yourself saying “You make me feel______”, you have given someone else control of your emotional state.   I used to catch myself doing this to my husband all the time.  It was unfair to both of us.  Now I simply acknowledge the feeling, “When you said that, I felt ______”.

When you say, “I need you to______” instead of,  “Would you please_______”, you are revealing the truth about what you believe.  You believe you need something from that person.  But the question is, what do you really need?  I have a son with some behavioral challenges.  I gave him instructions that started with “I need you to_______” until I realized the truth.  It wasn’t about helping him progress and develop healthy coping skills, it was about me feeling like a failure as a mom.  Now I give him simple, straightforward  instructions, and deal with my own feelings separately.

When you react emotionally, it’s rarely about the present circumstances.  What are you really reacting to?  More than likely, the present events have stirred up pain from the past, and you’re reacting to that.  Innocent remarks from friends used to bring me to tears, eventually triggering congestion and migraines.  I became resentful, cherishing my victim status. Now I’ve learned that when I experience l those symptoms,  I’m processing an emotion that’s rooted in the past.  I take responsibility for discovering the source of that emotion and asking God for truth.

Responsibility is a terrible, beautiful thing.

When have you taken ownership that wasn’t yours to take?  Where do you feel ready to take responsibility in your own life?



  1. courtney

    Yup! I definitely have to be careful to not take ownership for others emotions…to the point of letting it DRAIN me. Nice reminder. xo

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