When the people in my life, specifically in my house are having negative feelings – I am really uncomfortable with their discomfort and do everything in my power to try and make that person feel and act in a way that makes me feel more comfortable. When it doesn’t work (which is often) I start resenting this person.
A bit of background on a recent example:
My partner has been experiencing immense pressure at work, as well as in his studies, and where we live in Australia we have been experiencing a very intense lock down situation due to covid for the past 3 months. As a result he has been experiencing feelings of hyper anxiety, depression and burnout. He often explains that when he has these feelings he shuts down and pulls away from life and from me, is very irritable and exhausted and tries to just recoup inside of himself. He has had a difficult time investing in our relationship as a result.
Because I am so uncomfortable with the emotions he is feeling and with the lack of enthusiasm and happiness in our house that I try to talk to him, change his feelings, encourage him to change his thoughts and feelings, take action, buy him treats to perk him up, etc… When this doesn’t’ work, I get really angry, scared and resentful. During my coaching session yesterday – I finally realized that the reason I am so sensitive to everyone’s emotions is because my father (clinically diagnosed as psychotic and bipolar), when he would start having strong emotions of depression, anger, stress, fear, etc. he would emotionally manipulate and abuse us. I became really good at noticing people’s changing emotional states as a way to know when to protect myself. I would work really hard to calm people down, bring them to neutral or keep them happy to make me safe. While I have known this about myself – I always thought it was a strength. But now I see it is actually detrimental to myself and my relationship. My partner who is so lovely, kind and safe has never emotionally abused or manipulated me that I am aware of but I still have a massive fear reaction when he is displaying signs of emotional discomfort that have triggered me in the past (anger, pain, anxiety, stress, etc.) Realizing this – I think it is exhausting me and making me really vulnerable trying to play to other people’s emotions all of the time.
My question is how do I change the belief system: I am in danger when people close to me are in pain & I need to do do everything in my power to avoid, change or help that person so they feel better so that I can feel better?
Here is my attempt at the model:
C: Partner is experiencing depression & anxiety
T: I am in danger. But if my partner loves me, he will change his feelings & behaviours towards me
A: Try and offer all the advice in the world to help partner get out pain, research things that I think will be relevant to my partner to help him get out of pain, talk to him about how much it is affecting me and how hard it is, buy treats to try and perk him up, complain to my friends and mom, exersise and find ways to stay out of the house, read loads of books, etc.
R: Partner is still experiencing his feelings and I am miserable as well as resentful because nothing I try to do to help him is working and I am at the mercy of his emotions
Any tips on how to change this belief system so that people close to me can have their experiences and their emotions without it affecting me?
Thank you so much!