The Way You Make Me Feel

“The Way You Make Me Feel”…a song made popular by Michael Jackson in 1987.  I have a feeling that song would never survive in today’s culture.  The New Age psychobabble of today says that no one can MAKE you feel anything.  You should be in control of your emotions.  You choose what to feel or not feel.  Let’s examine this for a moment.

Let me ask you a question:  If someone breaks into your home and rapes and murders your wife, would that MAKE you angry?  Would that MAKE you sad?  If you try to tell me that you can choose to be happy about it, something is deeply wrong with you.

If Publisher’s Clearinghouse shows up at your door tomorrow and tells you that you’ve won $10,000 a day for the rest of your life, would that MAKE you happy?  Would that MAKE you excited?  If you try to tell me that you could choose to be angry or sad about that, you are delusional.

If we cannot MAKE someone feel something, then why do we bother buying big, expensive gifts for our kids at Christmas?  Aren’t we anticipating how happy they will be and longing to see the joy in their faces?

So, why do so many people give in to the idea that no one can MAKE you feel an emotion?  I think it’s because we like the idea of being completely 100% in control of our own emotions.  We don’t want to believe that someone or something could devastate us, scare us, or anger us.  Control is appealing.  Vulnerability is not.

The truth of the matter is that most things in life live on a continuum between two extremes.  We are not 100% in control of our emotions nor are we 100% out of control of our emotions.  We live in the middle, in the gray area.  Sure, you can choose to look at things from different perspectives – this is the core of cognitive therapy.  You can choose to have a positive or negative perspective on an event.  You can choose to hold a grudge or forgive.  You can choose to be defeated or motivated.  This does not mean that you can’t be made to feel an emotion that you wish you didn’t have to feel.  Emotions whether they be ones of sadness, fear, happiness, or excitement are natural reactions to environmental and relational stimuli.  We are meant to be affected by the world around us.

Life is full of ups and downs, good times and bad.  As much as we want to avoid the bad, we must realize that we need both in order to experience the fullness of life, learn lessons worth learning, and grow in character.  It’s OK to feel what you feel…what you choose to do with those feelings…now that, my dear, is up to you!

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