Finding balance with what we can and cannot control.
This is going to sound maybe presumptuous, but I'm really proud of you! Having been on the same journey as you. It is not easy and a total mindf*ck sometimes. Also, you are 100% right - we totally make children responsible for the emotions of adults. Most social rules - whether implied or stated - are for the comfort and convenience of adults.
I love that you brought this up. It is so fraught and socially we are taught things that don't actually make sense. Plus, the things we are taught are gendered.
Communication is a feed back loop. What we say, and how we say it (voice tone, posture, gestures, and etc.) affect the message the other person receives. That said, ultimately, the other person can be partly or fully responsible for how they feel, but we are not taught that, and because we learn lots of our emotional responses very deeply at ages we can't recall, we really don't have that kind of self awareness and processing power. To learn that, to take full responsibility for our own feelings is a lifetime of work, and well worth it. But, to be human, to live and love, and laugh, we also need to let other people drive our feelings too. I mean think about it, being fully in control of our own feelings is it's own kind of very personal hell.
I hate it when someone says. "You made me feel X, and I'm mad at you and it's your fault I feel this way!" In truth, what the meaning is, is something like, you said/voice toned/gestured something and I feel bad. I don't like it. And then maybe, if things aren't too bad, maybe don't do that again, or do something else instead. But to work the best, to get along, both sides need to review.
We are all full of these emotional triggers. When everyone has similar emotional triggers, we have a similar sort of response and we get pretty intuitive about, "well what would they feel if I said Y". Things just work. But the likelihood is, we don't all respond the same way, thus the need for a bit of self responsibility and self awareness, on both sides.
Now, I'm not talking about name calling or threats or other bullshit, I'm talking about the stuff where we assume things and miscommunicate.
Sorry, got off on a rant there.
I am of the camp of kindness over niceness. Niceness for myself comes from a history of people pleasing, of sacrificing whole parts of myself to accommodate what I believed would give happiness to another. NOPE. I am not responsible for other people's feelings. I can be considerate of them as long as I don't betray who I am. I am find stating my needs and wants up front keeps me out of muddy communication. For example:
" I need to take a break from watching M, would you minding taking care of her while I do some self care to recharge my batteries for two hours?"
This way off the bat it is clear what is needed and wanted. I think it's essential for both parents to have the time to unplug from the responsibility of watching thier for a few hours each week. It takes a village as a wise woman once said to raise a child because we all need to take a break to take time for ourselves.❤️
This is so wonderful. Love hearing about growth. This topic is the most inflammatory when I post about it. People are so conditioned to feel responsible for other people’s feelings that they assume I’m suggesting we teach our children to be thoughtless and lack accountability.
On the topic of your husband watching your daughter, I always love to quote author and psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Cohen. “My wife was out and I was home alone with Emma when my mother called. She said, "Oh, so you're babysitting?" As politely as I could manage, I answered, "I call it fathering." She realized immediately what she had said and apologized. I realized that when she was a child, and again as a mother of young children, father's active involvement with their infants was so minimal that it could fairly be called baby-sitting.”
Getting of the train of people-pleasing is a tough journey! Also proud of you that you're acknowledging this and how it hurts you. I believe the difference between good people and, well.. others, is the fact that they will reflect on hurting people and prevent that from happening again. If you're usually good and the other person is still upset, you're not responsible for their feelings ❤️
Deeply relate to this while also being like...wait...whoa...she's right, especially with the example of your daughter. Thank you.
Perfect beautiful timing
All of this resonates deeply, especially the upbringing we are socialized in as women. I started taking classes in nonviolent communication (NVC) which teaches exactly this. The most surprising thing that they taught was that no one can make you feel anything, ever. It felt like an incredibly radical concept to me, but as I dove deeper into the class, it started to make sense and felt incredibly empowering. And the most beautiful part was that it wasn’t about avoiding taking responsibility or disconnecting from someone when they feel hurt from something you did, but instead offered a way to hear their feelings, hold space, without taking on blame so that you can understand their feelings and needs. I highly recommend NVC to everyone.
thanks for writing this
Stoicism really helps me with this. It's core principle is to focus on the things you can control, and let the rest go.
One of the greatest energy drainers is trying to control the feelings of others. It's liberating to realize you can only control yourself. It also means you're reclaiming your power because you get to decide how you feel and interact with the world. It's a very positive thing.
Profound, lady. Letting go is healing for any child mistreated by adults, for any woman abused physically and/or mentally, to see we didn’t cause it - hurts in a good relief way.
I love how you contextualized this by using your partner and daughter. My partner and I have been having these conversations about our family members - this is so nuanced now that we have a child. Holidays are coming up and although we know we aren’t responsible for other people’s emotions - there’s a whole other ball game dealing with people’s emotions. When proximity is involved this so difficult to deal with when people do not respond well to boundaries being set. Thanks - now I need to know what to bring to tomorrow’s therapy appointment!
Thank you for articulating this experience so clearly! I am working on how to live with the fact that my partner is just not going to be in agreement with me all the time. Sometimes it’s going to be about something big - like what city we live in. It has taken so much effort for me to simply acknowledge what I want when it’s different from what he wants. It sometimes feels like it would be easier to water myself down to meet him where he is. This is the really insidious thing about people pleasing; it interferes with my ability to identify what I want, apart from what will make others happy.
Carrisa - this is fabulous. At the one hand so basic, yet on the other so vital, so needed, so essential that EVERY human should have this in their toolkit for life.
As the mom of a medically-challenged kid (now adult) I related to this so much. I thought I was responsible for everything… I even studied Bowen’s family systems to try to figure out what was actually my side of the street? And the thing is… I SO want everyone to be ok, that I OVER function for people I love like desperate, annoying Girl Scout, like Rory Gilmore - Season One on steroids… and that deep fear had to be tended to at some point… 😂 but even then, it saunters back now and then… just to toy with me. And I’m an oldster, lol.