You are not responsible for other people’s feelings. Don’t let other people convince you otherwise. The five dreaded words, “You make me feel like…,” are nothing but trouble. What’s simply happening here is that someone is making you responsible for their emotional baggage. This baggage has nothing to do with you. What you are is just a ‘trigger’ for deep-seated, emotional, childhood issues that they haven’t addressed. It takes repeated experience of being on the other side of taking on other people’s feelings to get that it is never about you, and always about the other person. Here are some ways to protect yourself and still keep the other person in your life:
Are you the one who seems the bring all the goods to a relationship, and the other person is just ‘so happy’ to be with you? Do you beam when someone tells you how happy you make them? Stop. These are red flags that you’re about to get sucked into another relationship time warp where nothing ever changes. Keep an eye out for anyone who claims that you are their source of happiness. It is a burden you never want to carry because you will disappoint them, and they maybe never let you forget it.
Protect yourself from oversharers. These are the type of people who tell you their life story on first meeting. There is something about you they see that can help them. They either need a friend or a therapist, of which you are neither to a complete stranger. If you cross the line too early you’ll find yourself solving and fixing their problems when you should be attending to your own.
Speak up when you start getting that weird, heavy feeling that happens when you start to feel guilty or worn out by other people’s feelings. Clearly state that you are uncomfortable, and remind them that they are the one responsible for their own actions and decisions. Respectfully decline their attempts to speak on your behalf and tell you what you should feel. Deflect and let them know they are sharing their own perspective and ideas, not yours.
Establishing these types of boundaries with loved ones can be a challenge. Too much too soon can backfire and make you look like you don’t care. With each conversation, take another step back and establish emotional distance. Actions speak louder than words in this case. Avoid making a big song and dance about not taking on their feelings and emotional drama. Just do it. In a firm but gentle tone, affirm that their choices, decisions, and reactions are theirs alone. Make a promise to yourself that whatever they decide you won’t automatically take it on.
It is so easy to want to help a friend, and make them feel better. You take on the feelings with hopes the other person will feel better. Yet, they never do. You give advice, but they rarely use it. You’re then left wondering what you did wrong, or if you hurt them more. Ask the person what it is that they need. Listen intently. They will start to consider their own problems, and find a way to deal with them. Let others do the heavy lifting and learn to empower themselves. If they want your advice they will ask for it.
You can’t cut out everyone from your life who makes you uncomfortable. You may learn more from them about yourself than anyone else. Taking on other people’s feelings produces similar feelings of despair, guilt, and depression in the receiver because we all share the same feelings. Some are more easily triggered than others. Learn to honor your own feelings first, and it will be a lot easier to allow others to do the same.
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