I’m not responsible

Posted by Doc
Jan 27 2009

Just as I’ve said that we can’t put the responsibility for our feelings on others, by the same token, I can’t take responsibility for someone else’s feelings.

There are some interesting implications to that.

For instance, all that time I spend feeling guilty for “hurting someone’s feelings” is time wasted. I’m not saying that I think we shouldn’t be aware of others’ feelings. I’m not promoting insensitivity or callousness or meanness.

What I am promoting is the idea that I am not responsible for your feelings. Your response or reaction to my behavior is just that – yours.

That said, I do believe that we can learn what behaviors lead others to feel certain ways, and choose to behave or not behave in those ways.

And yet, I can’t spend all my time thinking about how my behavior affects you. More importantly, I can’t go back and change the way you feel.

Have you ever known someone who – no matter what you did – always seemed to get upset with you? Always blamed you for what you did, didn’t do, or the way in which you did or didn’t do it?

Sadly, too many of us use our (supposed) feelings as weapons and tools to manipulate others.

  • You hurt me
  • You made me angry
  • I only did it because I knew that you would be upset if I didn’t
  • Why are you so mean?

Guilt, manipulation, control.

So what happens when I say “I’m not responsible for your feelings. How about if you take responsibility for your feelings, I take responsibility for mine, and we talk about why you’re upset about this?”

Of course, I wouldn’t say it quite so directly. 😉 I’d probably do a STATE thing.

The point is, I believe that being a mature human being, being an “adult”, means taking responsibility. I take responsibility for my feelings, for my behavior, and for being committed to my relationships. Relationships include any situation in which I have a connection with another human being, no matter how close or distant.

16 Responses

  1. Alison says:

    I have to say that taken alone without a life philosophy of kindness, this is simply an excuse to do whatever you want, no matter how hurtful it is to the people around you. Although it is true in the macro sense that you do not control someone else’s feelings, they may not control them either, and if you do or say things that can reasonably be expected to cause hurt, then you have acted wrongly, whether or not you are “responsible for their feelings.”

    • Doc says:

      I think you’ve expressed it fairly. I agree that my belief that I am not responsible for your feelings doesn’t absolve me of having sensitivity or awareness.

  2. Jan says:

    I think its funny that we are in a society that caters to psychopaths so much – that we have started developing philosophies that cater to their patterns of behaviour.

    When it comes to human psychology there are not absolutes. To say “I am not responsible for your feelings” is an exremely invalidating thing to say to someone. It is also a defensive statement said to someone who is manipulating or otherwise overreacting to you because of their own issues.

    Let me repeat:
    “I am not responsible for your feelings” is a DEFENSE against accusations to the contrary, in a situation that warrents such.

    However, I suppose the CONTEXT of the statement is what would make this statemet true- as I said before, there are no absolutes. If your aunt bertha shrieks at you everytime you say “no” to comming over to dinner, then saying “I am not responsible for your emotions” is a very valid thing to say in that situation, as it is a DEFENSE that you are taking to protect yourself from taking on emotional reactions that have nothing to do with you, in the end.

    If however, you emotionally abuse and psychologically torment someone, saying “I’m not responsible for your feelings” said as a DEFENSE makes no sense. What are you defending yourself from in that situation? You are defending yourself from taking responsibility for the negativity you are spewing at another human being. And that is why this philosophy, when taught in absolute terms, in a society filled with people who are all too happy to remind you that they will do whatever they please and your soul be damned, is very dangerous.

    Teaching this phrase as a DEFENSE (which it is) is wise, and helpful for those who have taken on too much responsibility from others emotional reactions.

    Teaching this phrase as an absolute, as something that is true regardless of the circumstances is just pure idiocy. And spiritual malpractice in my opinion.

    “Sadly, too many of us use our (supposed) feelings as weapons and tools to manipulate others.
    •You hurt me
    •You made me angry
    •I only did it because I knew that you would be upset if I didn’t
    •Why are you so mean?”

    So now telling someone they have hurt you, is manipulation? Which abusive dysfunctional family member taught you this? This list seems like the normal words of someone trying to communicate with someone who has acted in a non-loving manner, and your response is to call it manipulation? Perhaps in some cases, but in all?

    by the way, you left one phrase from your list:
    “I love you” is the most manipulative phrase ever uttered in our language. I am quite surprised its not on your list of things not to say.

    • Doc says:

      I think you make a good case. It is certainly possible to be deliberately manipulative, and you’re right that what I’ve said can and should be viewed contextually. It was not my intention to excuse or encourage deliberate manipulation or abuse.

      On the other hand, it’s hard to draw a clear line between abuse and ordinary manipulation. I think that many of us practice ordinary manipulation if only because we’re culturally biased toward it. We are taught – even conditioned – from an early age to use emotions as tools or weapons. As parents, we use feelings to teach/manipulate/abuse our children, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

      As I said in my post, “I’m not saying that I think we shouldn’t be aware of others’ feelings. I’m not promoting insensitivity or callousness or meanness.” Again, I do not intend to suggest that being deliberately abusive is acceptable. However, I am reminded of an instance between parent and child in which the child said repeatedly “Dad is yelling at me.” In observing the behavior, the parent was not yelling – not raising his voice at all, nor using strong language of any kind – but rather was simply disagreeing with the child. The child’s feelings were her own, based on her perception of her father’s behavior.

      So what might be abusive or manipulative or cruel or painful to one person, might have no effect on another.

      Do you make valid points? ABSOLUTELY!

      Could my words be misused to try to excuse behavior that is intended to cause pain? ABSOLUTELY!

      It seems, from what you’ve written, that you have strong feelings about this, and I appreciate you challenging my post. I agree that what I said should not be taken in an absolute way. If by “DEFENSE” you mean a tool for reducing the pain or abuse, I agree completely.

      I stand by what I said for the majority of situations. For me, recognizing that I feel what I feel because *I* feel it is important in taking control of my emotional universe and making it that much harder for others to manipulate or abuse me.

  3. Elsie says:

    When I say im “not responsible for your feelings” I make the excuse that I am blameless. If I hurt your feelings I do it on purpose and you can”t do anything about it. your tactless assault on me will force my wrath on you. I will make you feel like the biggest ass in the world. You will think twice before you do it again. You will see that it would be best to word your crap carefully.I wii confront you with your faults and failures and the fact that you are so ignorant and selfish. If you are not responsible you would have no reason to tell me that and i wll be all over you mad as hell!

    • Doc says:

      It’s clear that you and I see things differently. You cannot make me feel like an ass, I can only feel like an ass. You may see my “faults and failures” but that doesn’t make them faults and failures, it only means that you see things that way. You may see me as ignorant and selfish, but – again – that doesn’t mean that I am ignorant and selfish. It also doesn’t mean that I am not. The only thing it means is that you feel the way you feel and you see things the way you see them, and you are free to say so. If what I’ve written has led you to feel upset, then that upset is yours, not mine.

  4. Elsie says:

    you will know who is responsible for your feelins when I make you feel anyway I want.

    • Doc says:

      But you cannot make me feel any way you want. You can write/say whatever you like, but in the end I feel the way I feel. If I feel upset, it’s because I respond to your words in a particular way. If I feel amused or indifferent, that’s how I feel. The only way in which you can control my feelings is if I give you control, which I do not.

  5. Elsie says:

    When you are connected to me,there is a chance that you can impact my life with your stupidity in thinking you are “NOT RESPONSIBLE” for fucking up our relationship and losing me. you are a coward my friend and have very little respect.

    • Doc says:

      Apparently what I’ve said has triggered something in you. That’s okay – you should figure out why you feel so strongly about it.

  6. Elsie says:

    where were you brought up? in a bad neighborhood?

  7. elsie says:

    how about this:When I tell you that you are loved or that you did a good job, if you look up to me and respect me you will feel good and I will be doing my job of making you know that you are a worthwhile and appreciated. I will be responsible. what do you think?

  8. Tracy W says:

    Late to this I know, but why aren’t you promoting insensitivity or callousness?

    If you’re not responsible for my feelings, what does it matter if you’re insensitive or callous? Why not show up at funerals and insult the departed? Or go to a wedding and tell the bride she looks fat and ugly? After all, you’re not responsible for the feelings of the mourners or the bride and groom.

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