Outsourcing our emotions

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If you are outsourcings your emotional life you’ll know because you’ll find yourself saying things like “I would be less stressed if the kids behaved”, “I’d be happier if I was respected more by this person”, “I’d feel better if this person stopped meddling in my business”.  Podcast fave Tonya Leigh defines outsourcing something as to obtain goods or services from an outside supplier, especially in place of an internal resource. When you are outsourcing your emotional life, you are trying to obtain an emotion from outside of yourself instead of creating it from within your own internal source.

If we are emotionally accountable, we are the one who is creating our emotional life. When we want someone else to behave differently so we can feel better, we have given all the emotional power to that person. When we are blaming someone else for the way we feel we have not taken responsibility for our own emotions.  If we are emotionally accountable and responsible for ourselves, it lets everyone else off the hook and we decide how we want to feel in every situation.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries, but you don’t make other people responsible for how you feel. When you decide how you want to feel you can set very clear boundaries with other people. When we outsource our emotions to someone else, often that person isn’t fully in control of their own emotions, yet we push more on them to change in order for us to feel better.

It can be really freeing to take control of our own emotions, take responsibility and accountability for them.  It can change relationships.  Other people don’t have to feel and think the same way we do. Let them be who they want to be.

It doesn’t mean you have to accept poor behaviour or become a doormat. It means you get to decide how you feel and set boundaries so that people can carry on doing what is not acceptable in your world but not in your space. 

Be honest, who are you outsourcing your emotions to right now?  Who do you want to behave differently so that you feel better? What would it be like for you if you released them from that responsibility and took ownership of your own emotions?

I have really focussed on this over the last year or so.  I am taking much more control of my emotional responses to things.  There have been certain things that triggered recently, and previous I would have gone into a bit of meltdown about it (I don’t take it out on anyone else, but internalise it all), however I chose to consider that what was causing me anxiety, was thinking about a situation which may never have happened.  I was taking a situation, blowing it out of proportion because I wasn’t comfortable with it.  But then I took stock and looked at it more objectively.  Was anything really going to happen?  What would be my response if this or that occurred?  Why was I wasting energy on churning this over and over in my head, when it may never have happened anyway? I decided to make the best of the situation and enjoy some time I got to spend doing what I wanted to instead and turned that energy into something more positive.  I didn’t fully ignore the niggles, but I chose not to let it dominate and not to shift it on to someone else.

When you learn to manage yourself instead of trying to manage other people, that’s when you get your emotional power back.


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