Is Your Stress Really Yours?

My stuff, your stuff, everybody has stuff.  I am not talking about physical stuff we keep in boxes or piles I am talking about emotional stuff – the hurts, the complements, the slaps in the face and pats on the back that we have accumulated over the years. All of that stuff creates our baseline stress level. Some people categorize and compartmentalize it. Others have it scattered all over their emotional space. Most are somewhere in between. Regardless of your emotional filing system there are going to be days that someone is going to stumble into your stuff and when they do, watch out!

Here is the really strange thing about emotional stuff: we usually want to blame other people for ours and accept blame for other people's stuff. It is an odd way to go about life but if you think about it, it happens every day. Anytime someone starts a sentence with "you made me...." or "I did that because..." followed by something someone else did, they are passing off their stuff.

Consider the leader who yells at a subordinate and then later says, "I am sorry I yelled but you made me angry."  Putting aside that "I'm sorry" should never be followed by "but..." (I talked about that a couple of weeks ago.) The leader is telling the subordinate, "I gave you control over my emotions. You managed them poorly and now I’m angry."  If I was a subordinate in charge of the boss's emotions anger would certainly NOT be the one I would choose. Now the subordinate walks away thinking "I have to be more careful to not make the boss angry."  The boss packed the emotional box and the subordinate picked it up and carried it out. Energy the subordinate could use to be productive is now being siphoned off to working on not making the boss mad and the boss feels justified in loosing his/her cool.

There are two sides to this issue, owning and managing our own stuff and not accepting ownership of the stuff belonging to others.

Owning our stuff - This seems like it should be pretty simple. They are your emotions. You are responsible for them. Sadly it often doesn't work that way. It is easy to be defensive, blame everyone and anyone and walk away feeling morally justified; particularly because feelings are something we never allow to cloud our judgment. (Yeah, right) Clearly it must be someone else's fault. That is not the case and it is time to own up and take responsibility for what is yours. That is not to say you can't tell someone how you are reacting to them. Rather than saying, "You did this and made me that!" (And giving away your power) Try something like "I expected you to follow up on that project. I am very frustrated that it didn't happen."  Or "I am offended and angry that you arrived at the offsite meeting late and unprepared." (Notice the “I” statements taking ownership rather than the “you” statement shifting blame.)

When I work with clients on this topic I often provide them with a feelings word list (There is one at the back of both of my books). Specifically because you can't own your feelings if you don't understand them and you can't explain them to others if you can't find the words.  

Not accepting stuff belonging to other people - This is a tough one too. Accepting blame, fault or just carrying someone's emotional baggage is a bad habit I see every day. If someone is packing their stuff and you are carrying it away there are two things you need to do.  One - diffuse, "I can tell you are furious about this situation." Show that you understand they are unhappy and you are listening. Two - protect yourself. If the person simply will not be deterred let them pack those boxes with their stuff, let them vent. Just remember not to pick up those boxes when you leave. I recommend honestly asking yourself “Is any of this really my stuff? Do I own fixing the problem? What is within my control?” If it isn’t yours, you can’t fix it and it isn’t within your control, it’s not your stress to carry.

Do you find you are quick accept blame for "making" someone feel a certain way?

As always, I wish you the MOST from your potential!

Doc Robyn

PS - If you are interested in working with a coach, I'd be happy to have a conversation with you to discuss how I can support your success. All you have to do is ask.

Dr. Robyn Odegaard (aka “Doc Robyn”) is internationally known motivational speaker, executive coach and corporate trainer. As CEO of Champion Performance Development, she works with executives, professionals, athletes, and coaches to help them achieve excellence by sharing active leadership, powerful teamwork, conscious communication, Productive Conflict™ and professional disagreement skills. She is the founder of the Stop The Drama! Campaign and author of the books Stop The Drama! The Ultimate Guide to Female Teams and The Ultimate Guide to Handling Every Disagreement Every Time. To work with her one-on-one, have her present to your team, request a custom workshop or invite her to speak at your event, please call 302-307-3091 or email her at

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