Written by: Sammie Lee Wilhoit
Art by: Grace Monahan
This is a PSA for anyone guilting other people for your feelings: they aren’t in charge of how you feel!
In the past year, I’ve had many guys blame me for making them feel sad, depressed, or guilty. In many cases, the reason for this statement to be declared is because we went on one date and it didn’t go well so they felt bad afterwards.
However, if my many years in therapy have taught me anything, it is that I can’t control or be responsible for the emotions of others. I am only in charge of my own emotions.
When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with anxiety. Along with this diagnosis, I was referred to a therapist. Although the first few were not a good fit, I eventually found a therapist that I could trust and open up to.
One of my goals in therapy when I was thirteen was to stop over apologizing. At the time, if I made a minor mistake or noticed someone talking to me was looking unhappy, I would apologize. I was certain that I was causing others to feel upset. By learning that I was only responsible for my own emotions, I was able to alleviate a lot of that guilt and worry.
Yet here I am, seven years later, now being told by men in college that I am responsible for making them feel bad. These days, I don’t believe them. I don’t apologize for their feelings. The day after a date went poorly, I often get a text or am confronted by the guy himself. The last time this happened, I got a text stating that he regretted going out with me. He also wrote that I made him feel horrible and sad. That having a conversation about what went wrong and how we could move and still be friends was making him feel worse.
After a year of hearing guys blame me for their feelings and for trying to communicate with them, I’ve noticed patterns. I’ve heard repeating phrases like “You make me feel miserable” or “This conversation is making me feel bad.” They project their feelings onto me or the situation.
Ultimately, their accusations have to do with them not taking ownership for their emotions. By blaming me for the way they feel, they are relieved from the responsibility or feeling sad or annoyed or otherwise upset. This is useful for many men, who over the years have been shamed for crying, or for feeling nearly any emotion besides calmness or anger.
While I understand that there is societal pressure placed on men regarding their emotions, I also ask for all guys—and anyone else on the gender spectrum who has been doing this—to please stop blaming others for your emotions. Instead, take ownership.
Next time, when you go on a date and it doesn’t work out, or you get in an argument with a friend, address your feelings as your own.
Instead of saying, “You make me feel upset,” say “I feel upset,” and give your reason for why you feel this way. Perhaps you’re upset because the date didn’t go as planned and now you feel disappointed. Perhaps you’re feeling upset because your friend didn’t respond to your text or see you waving at them as you walked past. By taking responsibility for your feelings, you’ll be able to better communicate with your community.
If you find your emotions overwhelming, consider going to a therapist. Therapy has helped me to figure out how to discern my emotions and communicate with others about how I’m feeling without guilting them. Champlain offers a counseling center and there are also many good therapists in the community. Your emotions matter to your health and wellbeing. By finding a place to talk about, manage, and take responsibility for your feelings, you can improve your relationships with others.