Emotional Discernment - Watch How You Speak

"When we look outside for self-definition and self-worth, we are giving power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. We are trained to be victims. We are taught to give our power away.

As just one small example of how pervasively we are trained to be victims, consider how often you have said, or heard someone say, "I have to go to work tomorrow." When we say "I have to" we are making a victim statement. To say, "I have to get up, and I have to go to work," is a lie. No one forces an adult to get up and go to work. The Truth is "I choose to get up and I choose to go to work today, because I choose to not have the consequences of not working." To say, "I choose," is not only the Truth - it is empowering and acknowledges an act of self-Love. When we "have to" do something we feel like a victim. And because we feel victimized, we will then be angry, and want to punish, whomever we see as forcing us to do something we do not want to do - such as our family, or our boss, or society"

Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

Codependency involves living life unconsciously reacting to the emotional wounds and intellectual programming from childhood. In order to stop living our lives in reaction, we need to be willing to start being more conscious. That includes becoming more conscious in relationship to how we learned to express ourselves growing up in codependent cultures.

In the quote from my book above, I talk about one of the ways we were trained to live life from a victim perspective. Just take a moment to become conscious in how different the energy of saying "I have to" is from the energy of saying "I choose" - and I think you will get the point.

In terms of starting to learn some emotional discernment - of learning how to clear up, and change our relationship with, our own emotions - it is important to become conscious of some dysfunctional ways we learned to express ourselves in relationship to emotions.

When we make statements like: "I am angry."; "I'm very hurt"; etc.; we are stating that the feeling is who we are. The feeling is not who we are. Emotions are a vital component of our being but they do not define us. It is important to start seeing emotions as a part of us so that we can start taking responsibility for them instead of being the victim of our own feelings.

We also need to stop blaming our feelings on another person: "You make me angry."; "You hurt me."; etc. When we make these kind of statement we are saying that the other person is totally responsible for our feelings - we are blaming from a victim perspective.

The healthier, and more honest, way to express our feelings is to state how we are feeling and what we identify as having triggered that feeling. To say something like: "I felt hurt when you didn't call me."; "I feel angry when you talk to me that way."; etc. (This also helps us to start focusing on cause and effect - a vital step in raising our consciousness so we can move out of a victim perspective.)

By becoming conscious of changing the way I expressed my emotions, it became easier for me to start seeing my emotional reactions with more clarity. Then I could start becoming more discerning in sorting out what part of my emotional reaction was caused by things I did have some control over / was my responsibility.

For instance: If I felt hurt because you didn't call me, then I could look at what expectation on my part set me up for that emotional reaction.

Did you tell me you were going to call me - or did I assume you would call me. If it was my assumption, those feelings are something that I created that don't really have much to do with you. A component in codependent behavior is assuming, mind reading, fortune telling, and interpreting. I was afraid of asking directly for what I needed and setting boundaries - out of my inner child wounds relating to fear of confrontation and of abandonment - which set me up to feel like a victim when someone did not do what I expected them to do. I needed to learn to take responsibility for how I set myself up emotionally with my expectations in order to start getting more emotionally honest with myself and stop blaming you for my feelings. If I am upset because you "should" have called me, or because it was the "right" thing to do - that is about my belief system and expectations.

Perhaps you told me you were going to call me, and I feel I have a self righteous reason to be hurt by your behavior. What I need to look at then, is rather this is a pattern of behavior for you. Is this something you have done before. If you have a pattern of behavior that causes you to be irresponsible in following through on promises that you have made - then I need to look at my responsibility in choosing to believe you when you make a promise. The definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results - would then apply to my expectations, which are my responsibility.

If it is just a case of you were busy and couldn't call, a rare occurrence where you didn't keep a promise, then I need to look at any beliefs I have that don't give you room to be human - that cause me to think you will be perfect. To expect another person to never screw up (in my view of their behavior) is an insane expectation of another human being.

It is vital for me to look at anything I may be doing, or any attitude or expectations that I am holding, that contributed to the emotional reaction I experienced.

As I started to clean up the way I expressed my feelings, and stopped blaming them on you, then I could also start to look at what other factors played a part in my emotional reaction. I became aware that any time I had a strong emotional reaction - intense, a lot of energy behind it, a "button" was pushed - I was reacting out of unresolved grief from the past. Then I could start to see that the emotional reaction that you triggered was an opportunity for me to get in touch with an inner child wound that needed my attention.

There are many different levels and layers to the process of getting emotionally honest so that we can become emotionally discerning. It is very important to become more conscious of all the ways we were trained to have a dysfunctional relationship with our own emotions. A small, but very important, step in that process is to start becoming more conscious of what is coming out of our mouths. It is important to become more aware of what you say, how you express yourself.


I also want to call your attention to two other articles that are about the power of words, of how we express ourselves.

The Journey to the Emotional Frontier Within focuses on speaking in the third person and avoiding using primary feeling words and

Further Journeys to the Emotional Frontier Within is focused on story telling.

- Robert Burney

Go to Intellectual Discernment - "have to" and the Holiday Season

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