Emotional Accountability

by Carly Mayer, M.S. 

One of the main foundations of REBT is that we control our own feelings because we make choices that result in these feelings. So, even though society often tells us (and we tell each other) to blame others for the way we feel; in fact, we have the opportunity to decide how we feel.

Think about this scenario:

Your roommate leaves a huge pile of dishes in the sink for the seemingly 100th time.
Do you feel angry? Frustrated? Anxious? Annoyed?
Clearly, your roommate must be causing you to experience this feeling, right?

Not exactly! People may feel a range of different emotions in this situation. So, how can your roommate’s actions cause you to feel one specific way when someone else may feel a different way in the exact same circumstance? Similarly, a person may initially feel one way and decide to feel another way by changing their thinking. When I think of myself in this situation, I would probably feel angry initially. I would think that they should clean their dishes because that is just an understood part of living with another person. However, I know that I am choosing to make myself feel angry. Since I have the choice, instead, I would want to feel annoyed because someone leaving a huge pile of dishes is just that – annoying. Yes, according to my “roommate rules” that is part of living with another person, but it is not written anywhere that this is absolutely true. While I would prefer that she abide by my rules, she does not absolutely have to. It is not the end of the world and it is not the most horrible thing. So instead of feeling angry, I would choose to feel annoyed by challenging the dogmatic demands I am placing on my roommate and changing them to flexible preferences.

What will you choose to think and feel next time a situation like this arises?

Carly Mayer

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