The feelings bargain. In house or outsource, you decide.


Whenever you are upset, you have a choice. A choice that will lead to two Heart felt consequences. These consequences will be determined by whether or not you decide to outsource the cause of your emotions, or whether you will do it ‘in house’.

If you decide to out-source your feelings (You might hear yourself saying, “They made me feel……”) you opted to be guilt free. Your emotional state, and the behaviour that stems from it, can never be your fault if you’ve been made to feel the way you do. So far so good, right? Well, not really. If others made you feel bad, then there is no hope for you. You don’t have the power to change the way you feel because ‘they’ have the power. So now you’re guilt free, but you’re in a hope-less situation.

The other alternative is tougher. This options requires an ‘in-house’ approach to looking at feelings. People who choose this option think they have constructed their feelings, so when they are distressed they see themselves as responsible for feeling, then behaving, the way they do. By selecting the in-house approach to feelings (You know you’ve done this if you say “I made myself feel bad because I……”)  you’ve opted to run the risk of being at fault, or potentially guilty. So far not so good, right? Well, not really. You might feel bad but you won’t feel powerless. Knowing that you’ve constructed your emotions gives you opportunity to change. You have the power, and now you have hope as well.

For many of us undergoing change, we make the transition from the former to the latter. It is difficult to move from guilt free and hopeless, to guilty and hopeful because we all resist feeling guilty. But no changes can be made when we are powerless and that is the “Feelings bargain”. You choose to be guilt free and hopeless, or you choose to be guilty and hopeful. Either way will be determined by whether or not we outsource the cause of our emotions (“He / She made me feel ……”), or we see our emotions to be ‘in-house’ (“I made me feel by ……).

In reality we are always going to use a blend of these two strategies, and we do not operate in a binary way. This is because our emotions have been caused by others and caused by us. Many of us have been hurt by the actions of others, and we deserve recognition that this is the case. Many of us feel slighted by others when we need to change the way that we think and act. We swing as individuals and as a society in one way then the other. It is up to us to weigh up whether or not we are using too much of one strategy and not enough of the other.

I wonder if our society has become predominantly responsibility free and hopeless. We easily feel “offended” or “aggravated” and outsource the reason for this. Our behaviour follows on from a sense of outrage, and because we think others are responsible we behave in indignant, even narcissistic ways towards those that we think made us feel bad.

I look forward to a time where we cop the responsibility for our mood states. That will bring me and a lot of others hope.

Jonathan Andrews