Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another thing I'm afraid to tell you

The first draft of this post was super vague.  I was inspired by this Tiny Buddha article to talk about my own journey with learning how to create boundaries.  But I was hiding the juicy stuff.  The "things I'm afraid to tell you" stuff that I know makes good for good writing, and ultimately makes me feel more satisfied as a writer.

So here goes, take two.  Here's something I'm afraid to tell you: lately, I've been having a hard time dealing with Alex feeling unhappy.  When he talks to me about things that are bothering him, instead of being a sympathetic listener, I consistently find myself taking on his mood.  If he's angry, I become angry.  If he's disappointed or resentful suddenly, so am I.  And then I get mad that he made me feel that way.

It's a disaster! He just wants someone to talk to and vent with.  I completely agree with the things he's feeling unhappy about, and yet I find myself falling into the danger zone of starting a fight.  I'm mad at him for making me feel bad.  And I will say completely unuseful things like "you have to stop being so negative." Welcome to crazy town. Population: Sarah.

I'm at a point in my life where I'm recognizing that this is happening, and even know why it's happening (more on that in a second) but I'm still working on how to be the person I want to be to prevent it from happening.  Does that even make any sense?  The thing about learning about who you are is that figuring out what you need to do is the first step- and it's a really important one.  But actually doing that step is the hard part.  It takes time, practice, patience and compassion for yourself.  You can't change something about yourself if you keep criticizing yourself about it!  Or calling yourself crazy.  So, I guess I take that previous line back, Me.  I am not a citizen of crazy town, that's just mean.  I wonder if Compassion Town will ever let me move into the neighborhood.

So, why is this happening?  It has to do with boundaries everyone! My new favorite thing!

Here's what I'm starting to figure out as a mature young lady: when we set a boundary, we let go of the outcome.  And while remembering that I cannot control someone else's emotions is a really hard thing that I'm constantly reminding myself about, it's also a really liberating thing to know about.

As a naturally empathetic and compassionate person (towards others, not always to myself though), I tend to internalize other people's emotions sometimes.  Usually it's the emotions of people really close to me (the ones I never would want to hurt in a million years, which is just effed up).  Suddenly I can't tell the difference between what they are feeling and what I'm feeling.  Has this ever happened to any of you?  You're having a great day, and then suddenly you're greatly affected by someone else's mood?  Guess what, it probably means you need to be setting some more boundaries in your life.

I know that it is okay to feel angry, sad or frustrated.  I'm starting to know that it's even okay to feel resentful or disappointed   But the thing that I know, but am trying to learn how to know in practice is that it's okay for other's to feel his way too.  Like, OMG! DUH!!!

But seriously, I've got issues with that! Hence the internalizing other's emotions conundrum.

So right now, I'm working on letting myself and others feel a wide range of emotions.  Identifying them is good too, but I think I'm more in the just feeling them stage.  The reason I have such a hard time letting others feel emotions that I am uncomfortable with is because I am uncomfortable with myself when I feel those emotions.

So I know what I have to do.  I have to own my own emotions, I have to be okay with them and communicate them to others directly and honestly too.  I have to recognize what I'm feeling and then tell someone about it.  Only when I learn to do that, will I be truly loving to myself.  And when I am loving to myself I will be able to separate myself from other people's emotional experiences.

Sounds so easy right!  It's like, okay, I get it.  So now I just have to do that and I will have the healthiest relationships with everyone I know!  But it's really, really hard to break a way you've responded to emotions for your entire life.  So right now, I'm recognizing that it's a hard thing to do (hey there compassion!) but I'm going to keep trying to do it and hope for the best.  It's really easy to say that you love yourself (which I know I do on most levels) but an entirely different thing to actually achieve it.  I'm pretty sure we're all on some sort of spectrum when it comes to this.  Right?

So, thanks for listening, I tried not to be vague in the post.  I would love to hear if you've had similar experiences with this kind of thing in the comments!



  1. I can relate. I often stop myself these days when I start to feel a sad or negative emotion and ask myself if I am feeling this way because someone close to me is expressing this or do I have a reason other than that to be feeling out of sorts. It is sort of like determining if the emotion is any of my business and if it originated out of my life experience or if I'm just taking on someone elses grief when I don't need to. Just stopping and asking myself those questions have helped me realize what I'm doing and helped me focus in another direction.

    1. Thanks for your comment Heather! Stopping for a moment can really do the trick in so many situations. I'm trying o remember that more often.

  2. A few months ago, Greg was having a really hard time and we were going through a tough few months with one thing and another. Usually Greg doesn't get affected by this sort of thing as he's the rational one, I'm the one who gets crazy emotional. Anyway, he seemed to really struggle with the situation we were in and he was as negative as I've ever known him. I couldn't believe it and it just floored me, I didn't know what to do. And I found myself doing exactly the same as you, I'd cry at his words, I'd get mad with him, I'd blame him for his negativity, I'd go all self-help on him. It was totally ridiculous and I felt awful afterwards. So it's so good to read this post and know that I'm not a bad girlfriend, I'm normal and that I was just doing my best to deal with a difficult time. Thank you for sharing x

    1. Thanks so much for this comment Suzy, glad to know I'm not the only one. I guess feeling a little bit crazy is technically pretty normal. xo

  3. I do the same, I get down when my husband is down, because I have this thought in my head that he is supposed to be my rock and my safety net and be there at all times to help me with my emotions. Plus, he is usually a really level person, so it always comes as a bit of a shock to me when he gets sad or angry, and then I get sad and angry at him. And that's really not fair, is it?