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  1. #1
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    Default Do you make others responsible for your feelings?

    I reckon this is a real basic, maybe essential, social psychological question.

    I've been thinking about it lately because I've worked with troubled individuals who have serious mood swings, abuse alcohol and other people and basically live their life in disarray, lolling from one crisis to the next, always having a hand in creating them and never that aware or interested in the predictable consequences of their actions.

    On one occasion one of them exploded at me about how they had been visiting a counsellor who had been working hard to convince them they where not responsible for other peoples emotional states or responses to their behaviour. This came as a shock to me because I had been trying to convince them of the contrary because their behaviour had serious implications for health and even survival chances of others around them and dependents.

    As it turned out the counsellor described how they had spun them out a line about experiencing neurotic guilt about their wrong doing, should it have been responding to stress by getting totally rat arsed drunk and fighting or whatever, which then made for further drinking.

    I suppose that's one way of looking at it, the counsellor was trying to relieve that guilt in the hope that they'd stop the cycle of abusing alcohol, in my own independent assessment it appeared like the individual involved had taken it as a green light, I'm not responsible for you feeling bad about my abuse of alcohol, being a misery and wrecking things so dont blame me.

    There's perhaps a basic clash or perspectives there but it got me thinking, there's an awful lot of the time that people are inviting others to co-regulate their emotional responses, it all seems to be pretty unconscious most of the time, like the taxi driver who hears about a tax rise on the radio, switches it off and then turns to their fare and says, on a serious note, not just as conversation, "bloody politicians eh?".

    Some people do it more than others possibly because of a personal hard luck story or possibly because of a culture or context which enables them to or has created that expectation on their part. My question is to what extent should that be an expectation? Should the expecation that others will co-regulate your emotional state be made conscious first of all and then made socially unacceptable or taboo?

    I also ask because I know someone who was assaulted not too long ago and was called to a conference with the assailant before a community sentence would be passed, he told me about how the assailant admitted the offence but immediately minised and took a "but bother, you got to see it my way, my day was like this...". He came away shocked, not because he expected any sort of "act of contrition" but that there was so clearly stated the abdication of personal responsibility, "it wasnt me governor, it where the stress what done it".

    Personally I reckon that a modern vogue for explanation or understanding could have crossed a rubicon into acceptance or condoning behaviour there was unambiguous criticism of in the past. Outbursts, anger, violence, they arent hurricanes, floods, tsunamis.

  2. #2
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    I'm not quite understanding your initial complaint about the man's counselor.

    The fact is that we are not responsible for other people's choices or responses based on their emotional states. No matter how someone treats us, we always have a choice of how to respond; and in the end, it's still our life, and even when we've been given a raw hand to play, we can only play the cards we are dealt and take responsibility for our own contentment.

    However, I do agree that it's far more nuanced than that. Although as adults we are not responsible for another's choices, we definitely can behave in ways that contribute negatively or positively to another's emotional state, which can make their choices easier or harder. We are still part of a relational web, whether we like it or not. Our behavior puts constraints and pressures on others (or eases them).

    The situation grows even more confusing when we are not describing adult-adult exchanges, but parent-child exchanges, because there is an imbalance of power present, and the children are calibrating their sense of reality based on their interactions with the parents. Children haven't yet reached a stage where they can accomplish existential decision making, and the parents have to be very aware that their behavior might easily put a child into a destructive position; there is more responsibility there, when someone has authority over another and is serving the role of template for their growth into adulthood.

    As far as alcoholism goes (which was your initial example), there's lots of disagreement on how to approach it.... as a biological disease, as a moral choice, as a dysfunctional relationship script or "social game," and so forth. I'm not sure that there is just one way, perhaps the approach taken depends on the need that must be met. Maybe you'd benefit from analyzing it from different angles, to see if you can get a grasp on any valid POV the counselor might have had here, rather than just immediately subsuming it into yet another scenario of how the world has become irresponsible and crazy.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Little_Sticks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    ...
    On one occasion one of them exploded at me about how they had been visiting a counsellor who had been working hard to convince them they where not responsible for other peoples emotional states or responses to their behaviour. This came as a shock to me because I had been trying to convince them of the contrary because their behaviour had serious implications for health and even survival chances of others around them and dependents.
    ...
    +

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    ...
    The fact is that we are not responsible for other people's choices or responses based on their emotional states. No matter how someone treats us, we always have a choice of how to respond; and in the end, it's still our life, and even when we've been given a raw hand to play, we can only play the cards we are dealt and take responsibility for our own contentment.
    ...
    =

    One of Humankind's greatest philosophical problems.


  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    I'm not quite understanding your initial complaint about the man's counselor.

    The fact is that we are not responsible for other people's choices or responses based on their emotional states. No matter how someone treats us, we always have a choice of how to respond; and in the end, it's still our life, and even when we've been given a raw hand to play, we can only play the cards we are dealt and take responsibility for our own contentment.

    However, I do agree that it's far more nuanced than that. Although as adults we are not responsible for another's choices, we definitely can behave in ways that contribute negatively or positively to another's emotional state, which can make their choices easier or harder. We are still part of a relational web, whether we like it or not. Our behavior puts constraints and pressures on others (or eases them).

    The situation grows even more confusing when we are not describing adult-adult exchanges, but parent-child exchanges, because there is an imbalance of power present, and the children are calibrating their sense of reality based on their interactions with the parents. Children haven't yet reached a stage where they can accomplish existential decision making, and the parents have to be very aware that their behavior might easily put a child into a destructive position; there is more responsibility there, when someone has authority over another and is serving the role of template for their growth into adulthood.

    As far as alcoholism goes (which was your initial example), there's lots of disagreement on how to approach it.... as a biological disease, as a moral choice, as a dysfunctional relationship script or "social game," and so forth. I'm not sure that there is just one way, perhaps the approach taken depends on the need that must be met. Maybe you'd benefit from analyzing it from different angles, to see if you can get a grasp on any valid POV the counselor might have had here, rather than just immediately subsuming it into yet another scenario of how the world has become irresponsible and crazy.
    On a pragmatic level it works to assume personal control over our own responses. Having an external locus of control over our emotional states is to be tossed about by the wind. For this reason I will personally use that model, the assumption that we have power to personally make choices in any given circumstance.

    What troubles me about that position is that there is no way to prove it. When studying large group dynamics it is especially noticeable to see cause=effect. There are individuals who's outcome is not the same result as the masses, and we look and admire their internal strength to make positive choices. The danger of looking at each individual and society as a deterministic system whose results are entirely determined by its influences is that we fear people will then have no sense of responsibility. What has fascinated me is that even when a deterministic model makes sense to me, it doesn't change my own sense of personal responsibility. I think the influences that established it were strong and the result isn't going to change based on philosophy.

    The main strength behind the belief that we can independently make any choice regardless of our influences is that as systems we are too complex to account for every variable. In this way freedom of choice functions much like the god of the gaps. If we don't understand what motivates one person to choose a positive path and another a negative path, we attribute it to personal control. This is even the foundation of objectivism and yet it is not possible to prove it as a measured fact. It is faith based on subjective individual perception and experience.

    The alcoholic described in the OP is like a domino onto which a previous domino fell, and onto another he fell. He is a fragment in a larger system. You can say he is responsible and the previous domino responsible, you can also view it as influences acting out their paths. By adding in positive influences it allows for more positive outcomes. It's possible we have a power to make the choice regardless of our influences, but how could that be proven beyond the point of requiring faith? So much of the cause-and-effect of deterministic human systems is provable and forms predictable patterns that can be analyzed and solved.
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  5. #5
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    I view it as a tactic. It's a manner of self-preservation. If you can avoid punishment by avoiding blame you have succeeded at defeating the sociological justice system. It's why people claim insanity when they clearly aren't. It's an avoidance tactic. It really isn't that great of one either in such an individualistic society. Everyone is accountable for their own actions, but some see worth in putting effort on blaming an external source.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    The fact is that we are not responsible for other people's choices or responses based on their emotional states. No matter how someone treats us, we always have a choice of how to respond; and in the end, it's still our life, and even when we've been given a raw hand to play, we can only play the cards we are dealt and take responsibility for our own contentment.

    However, I do agree that it's far more nuanced than that. Although as adults we are not responsible for another's choices, we definitely can behave in ways that contribute negatively or positively to another's emotional state, which can make their choices easier or harder. We are still part of a relational web, whether we like it or not. Our behavior puts constraints and pressures on others (or eases them).
    I think this is one of the Four Agreements (take nothing personally). But it seems to me people that adopt this philosophy could also be using it to absolve themselves of any blame over their own actions or behavior. It allows them to behave selfishly without having to be socially aware of the consequences.
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  7. #7
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    I try not to do this. I do feel that people can influence your feelings and that if they are setting out to deliberately hurt you... they should be responsible for their actions there. But only YOU can be responsible for your own feelings. And its ok sometimes to have negative ones... but its a lot less ok to act on them. The ability to recognize your feelings is more important that who is responsible for them... and taking responsibility after recognizing them the best you can is the MOST important thing. I believe.
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  8. #8
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    No, I do not hold others responsible for my feelings. I also resent it when others try to hold me responsible for theirs.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...
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  9. #9
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    I try to avoid doing this, but I think all of us are guilty of it at certain points in our lives.

    That being said, I think people should be responsible for their own feelings and not hold other people that have their own feelings responsible for them, it's proof of severe emotional immaturity.
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  10. #10
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    Wow, I was asking searching questions in 2010.

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