The way you make me feel

Sylvester: Mighty RealAS I’M FOND OF pointing out, popular music pushes some crazy ideas into the minds of impressionable adolescents (and all the rest of us). The other day I was talking about how other people can’t make us feel bad or sad or guilty or mad…or glad, for that matter.

This is kind of basic, yet we forget: all of our feelings are self-generated. The good ones are. So are the bad ones. It’s no wonder we think otherwise, though. How many hit songs contain the words “you make me feel” in the title? I came up with these off the top of my head:

I’m sure there are others. I’m happy to see that these are all about being made to feel something positive, but it doesn’t change my point. Nobody can make you feel anything. They might be a catalyst, and we end up feeling something as a result of their actions, but that all happens in our own mind. We get to choose how we feel. Always.

Aretha Franklin: Natural WomanI like the expression “push my buttons,” as in, “That annoying co-worker really pushes my buttons,” because that kind of describes how it works: they initiate a chain of events that results in one’s reacting a certain way; but to say that person made you feel a certain way is like saying they made music come out of a radio speaker by switching it on. They didn’t do it. The radio did.

So, it would probably have been more accurate for Sylvester to have sung in his soaring falsetto, “You did something that caused me to generate a mighty real feeling.” But you can’t really dance to that, can you? This is a dilemma.

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