A man & a woman pointing to themselves in surprise at being responsible plus a 3rd guy avoiding responsibility and pointing over his head at the other two

Who Made You Angry? Who Hurt Your Feeling? It Was You!

by Jun 1, 2024Leadership

You made me angry. You scared me. “You made me love you. I didn’t want to do it.” Such sentiments are part of our western culture. There are two problems with this:

  1. Thinking others are in charge of our emotions, we make ourselves emotional victims.
  2. Thinking we are our emotions rather than something we have; we make ourselves victims of our own emotions.

What nonsense. Nonsense that most of us live from every day. Nonsense that you, as a leader, can little afford.

It’s time to set the record straight. My emotions belong to me. You are not in charge of my emotions. And who I am is not my emotions.

Living life from this perspective would set us free to be as happy, sad, loving, or angry as we choose, not as others choose. And, yes, that’s a tall order. Many of our followers, colleagues, friends, and families may think us odd as we talk and act from the idea that we are in charge of our emotions.

As truly effective leaders, though, we must be in charge of our emotions. We must end being a victim of what others say to us.

When some jerk cuts too close in front of me going 80 miles an hour, too easily my reaction has been, “That jerk really p-ssed me off!” However, as I remember I’m in charge of my emotions, I realize (regardless of how stilted it sounds), “I triggered my anger when that guy cut me off.”

Thinking that way, I have changed two things:

  • I am no longer my emotions. They are something I have. They don’t have me. The notion that I am sad, happy, or angry means that since I am my emotions; I must behave as my emotions want me to.
  • If I have emotions rather than being emotions, I manage them. They don’t and cannot manage me. I have hands; I am not my hands. There’s no difference with emotions.

Understanding emotions can be helpful to making the switch to have our emotions rather than be them. Emotions are the vehicle of our desires and the motivators of our behavior.

We do nothing unless we care. We wouldn’t even pick up the tv remote control without the desire to change the channel. I dislike cleaning the house, but I clean it anyway because I’ve company coming and want to avoid the shame of someone seeing how messy I can be.

Other people do not and cannot drive our emotions. Our thoughts drive our emotions. By changing my thoughts, I change my feelings. If my thought is, “He almost crashed into me. He shouldn’t have done that,” anger follows.

If I choose instead, “Wow, he cut me off. I’m glad he didn’t hit me. I hope he doesn’t cause an accident.” Then, there is no anger. The feelings I’ve triggered are relief and concern. Your choice of thought dictates your emotion.

But what is the mechanism through which someone can hurt us emotionally? We can and do have deep emotional and spiritual connections with others. That allows us to understand their feeling.

That does not grant us the power to be the cause of those feelings, even though that’s what society has taught us. Only we have the power to hurt our feelings. We cannot hurt other’s feelings.

My former friend and colleague, Edie Seashore, used to say, “We’ve been duped by society.” However, we do not have to remain “dupes” and continue blame others for our emotions. We can own what is already ours.

If I believe my thoughts drive my emotions, then I accept responsibility for them with no need to blame at all. It works like this: my beliefs shape my thoughts, which drive my emotions, which direct my behavior. How we involve other in this process is our choice.

Feeling vulnerable is real. That vulnerability stems from our egos, our sense of identity, or our sense of esteem.

When we doubt our worthiness, then our egos are vulnerable to any suggestion of threat and will trigger the need to defend. We will try to prove over and over how worthy we are—think Donald Trump.

Those who believe in their unworthiness—think about those who allow themselves to be abused—must behave as if they are unworthy, regardless of how misplaced their belief may be.

Those who are clear about their fundamental worthiness—think of the people who can laugh at themselves—have egos with little or nothing to prove. For most of us, our belief in our worthiness waxes and wanes with how tired we are and our stress levels.

If you choose to continue to believe that others cause your emotions, I will respect your choice of beliefs. I will have compassion if you think I made you sad. I will be curious about and interested in your thoughts and feelings. I will have sadness because you are sad. But sad is not who I will be.

Your emotions belong to you. They are our vehicle of desire and motivation. Literally, “emotion” means to move out. What we care about, we do. Own them, be responsible for them.

As a leader, your emotions are your way of being powerful in the world. When you do not blame others for your emotions, when you have your emotions and use them wisely; the accomplishment of your goals will be inevitable.


Dr. Michael F. Broom is an organization development psychologist who transforms organizations with his 45+ years of wisdom and expertise . Michael Broom smilingSpecializing in developing leaders, building teams, strategic planning, conflict resolution, and performance management, he emphasizes empowerment and excellence.

He is the author of The Infinite Organization and Power, The Infinite Game.

He is a recipient of the OD Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Contact Dr. Broom for a free hour of consultation at chumans.com or email him at michael@chumans.com. You’ll be surprised the difference a single hour can make!

Check out his immediately useful services and programs at CHumanS.com.