Do you find yourself asking this question, “Why do I let people walk all over me?”
Why do I keep letting him walk all over me? Why can I stand up for myself?
People often bring up self-esteem as the answer to the question, “why do I let people walk all over me?” Self-esteem is part of it, but there’s a secret reason that we see all the time. I call these the enemy emotions. Some people don’t see their emotions as normal, natural, or biological. They divided the emotions up into good emotions and bad emotions. With bad emotions, people think they shouldn’t feel them, or they’re wrong. The enemy emotions are not just uncomfortable, but people think the emotions are wrong. Right? The emotions are wrong; they’re the enemy.
The emotion becomes the enemy, and it distracts them from the problem. Ironically, if there’s a problem, or a person’s a problem, they feel anger and then suddenly that’s bad, that’s wrong, or it’s mean. There are half a dozen reasons why people can’t let the anger just be, in their heads. I’m just talking about in their head, not about saying anything out loud at this point. I’m talking about people who can’t even let anger exist in their heads. They start squashing it down and burying it.
The irony is, the anger somehow is attached to hurting somebody. People think, “If I feel anger, someone’s going to get hurt.” That’s what they believe in their heads, that’s their link to anger being bad. And then they feel guilt over having the emotion, “oh my gosh, it’s going to hurt somebody, I don’t want to hurt somebody.”
The big difference between thinking, being enraged even, in your head and hurting somebody, are oceans apart. I’d love to use the example, “You never fear, you never worry that your laughter is going to become mania.” Essentially, when thinking anger is bad, people are saying, “My anger is going to turn me to killing somebody.” No, you’re an adult, you can control yourself, these are fantasies or thoughts you’re having in your own head, they’re private; no one knows, and they’re normal.
It’s like denying that you have ears. It’s like saying, “I don’t have ears; I don’t want to hear anything bad.” If you think overall, hearing is helpful. Yes, we’re going to hear something we don’t like, and it may be painful. But we don’t deny ourselves our hearing because overall it’s very helpful.
Anger is essentially our alarm bell
It’s the smoke alarm we have in our head. It alarms us that something is wrong. Anger is usually the alarm bell that tells you; you have to do something, such as setting up a boundary or venting. You may not even have to vent the anger to the person you’re angry at. There’s a half-dozen things you can do with the anger, but if you keep ignoring the alarm bell, you’re not going to know if it’s just the battery that needs to be changed or is there a fire. We have to deal with the anger; it’s like an infection, it’s telling you something is there, that needs to be taken care of. Anger is not the enemy; we need you to feel the anger, so you know what’s happening, and you can better understand the question, “why do I let people walk all over me?”
That’s what’s going on with people who let others walk all over them. Let’s say someone mistreats you, even if it’s something minor or something bothersome, it may not be mistreatment, it might be bothersome to you. If you’re not able to say, “that makes me so angry,” they’ll keep doing that. Instead, try saying, “I need to let you know that’s irritating, can you please stop?”
It is much more useful to communicate your anger to someone, rather than burying it. A lot of times, the other person may not know that what they’re doing is making you irritated. We’ve all been on the other end of this when somebody’s upset, or something went wrong, and you have no idea what happened, we’d much rather know. We always say you should have just told me. It might be bad news to the other person or uncomfortable information, but it’s so much better than letting it go on and on. There’s no other way, like all emotions, air them out, even if it’s just in your head, or the emotions will eventually blow.
For example, with sports, it’s like muscle memory.
We can tell you to make friends with your anger, but it takes a long time if you have convinced yourself over the years that anger causes hurt or that people cause hurt, or anger causes hurt. Then you’re going to be tentative about pulling those two things apart.
We all do this, it’s not unusual to not want to make waves and not want to make a big deal, but overall, you have to hold on to the bigger picture because we’re all adults and we have to hold onto the big picture. It’s better to get that off your chest in whatever appropriate way you pick than to determine that your anger is the problem. You’re just going to keep letting people run you over or do inappropriate things, and then you end up taking it out on the wrong person, or it manifests in different ways.
If you don’t deal with the anger, you’re going to either blow or be resentful.
What happens is people bury their anger, and it blows up at the wrong person or situation. Then people say to themselves, “I knew it, see my anger caused that problem, I need to bury it more.” That’s the irony, is they start burying more anger until it’s blowing up all over the place.
The problem is you have to feel anger more often, not less. Just feel it. One of my favorite stories is about a patient who was telling me that he had to get rid of all his negative thoughts and get rid of his anger; he said it’s a negative feeling. And I said, but everybody feels anger, all the time. His jaw drops to the floor, and he says. “no way!!” I said, “yes, everybody.” He had convinced himself not only that he had to get rid of his anger but that everyone else needs to whitewash their moods and never feel anger.
Being comfortable with your anger is a good thing. It will help solve your question of, “why do I let people walk all over me?” Anger doesn’t make you a jerk; it doesn’t make you hurt somebody; none of those things are connected.
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