“you made me do it”

“. . . is it safe to say that we can “make” a person feel a certain way? Are we not in control of our own emotions . . ? If I gave you constructive criticism and you cried as a result, that wasn’t me “making” you cry, that was YOUR reaction. 2 people, 1 cries as a result, the other takes that information and uses it to their benefit. Which person did I ‘make’ do something ?”

this comment on one of my previous blog entries was intriguing, so i wanted to spend a little more time on it, here in today’s blog posting.

this is really a very involved topic, and i’ll probably spend a number of posts on this.

but here is one little aspect: i was thinking about how “making” someone do anything works in other languages. in german, for example, there is no expression for it. in german you can “force” or “manipulate” someone but not “make” someone do something.

i find that interesting because it makes the causal chain a little longer. when i think of person A “making” person B do or feel something, i immediately imagine a direct causal link, kind of like by stepping on the grass, i make an indentation in the lawn.

when person A forces or manipulates person B to do something, there seems to be a little more involved. maybe resistance on the part of person B, or reluctance, or at least some semi conscious feeling of un-ease.

it also seems that in this case person A, the “maker”/enforcer/manipulator has to work a little harder. there is less of a direct magical connection between person A and person B, where person A can just reach into person B’s emotions and create a certain feeling.

i think this is an important ingredient of the intuitive notion of “making” someone do/feel something – this idea that one person has direct and free access to someone else’s feelings, and can then cause these feelings to go any way they please.

the commentator’s example, where one action can have more than one emotional reaction disproves this idea. think back to when you went to school. a teacher would be able to inspire a wide range of emotions in all the people present in the classroom – from boredom to excitement to fear to amusement.

so – we could conclude that no-one can “make” anyone feel anything, right?

yes, right. but . . . there’s more to that than meets the eye. literally. stay tuned for more on this in the next blog entry.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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