Taking Responsibility for the Feelings of Others.
By heatherferreiracole, Jun 19 2014 09:52PM
Again and again on my journey I have come across the idea that we shouldn’t take responsibility for the feelings of others. It must have been one of my blind spots because that concept meant absolutely nothing to me. Why would anyone do that anyway? How is it even possible to carry that out?
But recently, I had an ah-ha moment on what that actually might mean. First and foremost I will introduce it as a form of protectionism. There are many of us that are afraid of the feelings of others - especially if said other holds some form of safety in terms of emotional or financial attachment for us: Our parents, our partners, our children, our in-laws, our relatives, our boss, our colleagues. Each one of these people holds an investment, so why wouldn’t we want to keep the peace?
I am certainly not condoning having the world all our own way and to wherever with everyone else. But I am saying be truthful to yourself. I guess the biggest way of knowing if you are taking responsibility for others feelings are if you;
1. Are coming from a place of fear – do you avoid subjects because you are afraid the other person is going to blow up, or act out in some way and you just can’t face that reaction.
2. Do you make excuses for the other whilst clearing up their mess, or doing their jobs for them?
3. Are you the buffer between society and them? What would the world see without you there?
4. Do people come and talk to you about your partner, child, colleague, boss etc. because you might be a softer landing and they would prefer you to broach the subject with said person – cos you can handle them so well…. Do you comply?
It’s not an easy one, there are a myriad of reasons why you would choose to do the above, as it often appears to make the situation so much easier to handle when you do all the work, take all the responsibility, but are you creating a rod for your own back?
“I don’t mind”, you might respond, but know that it is possible and maybe even probable that it may set up a pattern in your life i.e. if you act this way with one person it may well seep out into your other relationships, and before you know it, you are carrying way more than just your own responsibility.
In fact, people who don’t want to look at their own stuff actually look for people like you to carry it for them. “Bingo!” they say - consciously or unconsciously – “Bingo that I have found someone who is going to do all my running for me, shield me from my responsibilities, whilst I get to live a life the way I want. They seem to be willing to put up with it so who needs to change? Certainly not me because I am living the life I want and you aren’t saying a clear no, you are just being a stick in the mud/grumpy/unreasonable/high maintenance/crazy - but that’s your issue. Happy days!”
Don’t get me wrong, there can be plenty of reasons to want to help someone, to carry them for a bit whilst they get themselves back on their feet. But this is a choice you are consciously making and it usually isn’t a lifelong commitment, or an ongoing feeling of Groundhog Day. This doesn’t have an agenda to it. An agenda looks more like this “you are not doing something I think you should do because it fits in with the way I want the world to be, so instead of saying no to you, I will try to persuade you to be who I want you to be, to do it my way, that way you won’t get upset and I will get what I want”. The water just got very muddy and manipulation just entered the ring asking where it could be of help.
Manipulation is an incredibly fascinating tool which we use to protect ourselves from the world. I say fascinating because it can be so manipulative that sometimes we don’t even see it ourselves, when we are the one doing it! That to me shows just how amazing our minds can be at protecting ourselves; we don’t even see our own protection strategies within ourselves. Amazing, but not very helpful, and that is where awareness comes in, because the only way to get to the bottom of our stuff is an awareness of what is happening in the moment.
How am I feeling right now in this conversation? What is my stuff? What is your stuff? How far am I bending to keep up/in with you? Am I speaking truthfully or am I compromising myself for the sake of an easy life/approval/love? How do I feel after we hang out, am I feeling good about myself, or angry, insecure, less than? If I am not feeling great, why not? If I am feeling great, why is that? What are you able to say or do to me that makes me question myself? How much power do I give you over my emotional happiness? How much of my headspace do I allow you to take up, when I am both with you and without you, and how am I feeling about that? When you insinuate that I am not enough, do I allow myself to believe you?
Let me finish by saying relationships (and by that I mean our connections to anyone and everyone we meet) are by far the hardest playground in the realm of self-discovery. If we could open up our minds and emotions and tap into not only our genetic history, but our personal history too and our belief systems, be those that have been implanted by others or self-grown, we would see how incredibly powerful an exchange is between two people. Libraries could be written on the ripple effect of one conversation. So what I am trying to say is that if you find yourself sometimes thinking, “what on earth is going on!” then you are not alone. Go easy on yourself, we are so much more complex than even we give ourselves credit for.