Who has ever heard their abuser tell them:
“Nobody can make you feel bad.”
…as a response to being upset with some abusive thing they’ve said or done?
My answer to this is always: “Well, If someone punched you in the face, you’d feel it!!”
Verbal abuse is only different in that it’s not physical pain.
But feelings are feelings, and emotions are something that happen, not something you choose. And like physical pain, they exist for a reason! A very good reason. The SAME reason that makes you take your hand off the hot stove when you feel that nasty burning sensation!
“Nobody can make you feel anything” is actually a little snippet of something they’ve pulled out of therapy, or a book, or from some counseling, and have twisted it for their own illogical use. They have taken the phrase and turned it on its head in order to avoid taking responsibility for their abusive behavior.
The whole line, in context, is actually a healthy boundary message:
Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission.
Nobody can make you feel bad without your consent.
Nobody can make you feel bad unless you let them.
THE MEANING is this:
Nobody can abuse you if you don’t stick around to stand there & take it!!!!
That’s ALL it means.
It does NOT mean you need to “grow a thicker skin“.
It does NOT mean you need to “be less sensitive“.
It does NOT mean you need to “offend less easily“.
It does NOT mean you need to “control your feelings“.
It does NOT mean you need to “put up & shut up“.
If anyone uses that line to mean any of that, they’re full of crap, and don’t know the first thing about respect, integrity, boundaries, or kindness… or the true meaning of anything they’ve learned from whatever book, therapy, support group, or 12-step program they got it from.
Because that line – in its FULL and proper context – is intended ONLY to mean that you can say NO to abuse, and leave abusive people in the dust, to their own devices, or someone else who’s willing to put up with it.
If you’ve had trouble with this line being handed to you, like I have in the past, I highly recommend the following books:
Those books cleared it all up for me. And I no longer buy into this twisted turned-on-its-head “personal responsibility” nonsense for even one minute. Because twisted in this way, what the abuser is saying is that he wants YOU to take personal responsibility for HIS abusive, hurtful, inconsiderate behavior – and you shouldn’t.
What YOU are responsible for when you are the target of an abuser (and ALL you are responsible for) is PROTECTING YOURSELF from his abuse. Setting and keeping healthy boundaries is how you do that.