“Who caused this?! Who did this?!… Oh… it’s partially me”
By Debbie Marini, MHFA Instructor ~
Ok… there’s a lot of ripping off the band-aid in this: sit-down.
I’ve been hurt. We’ve all been hurt at times. We feel sadness for the hurt, then anger, then an absolute need for retribution, then… in a healthy state… self-reflection.
This is where the band-aid comes in.
First… let’s look at expectations.
Every time we enter a relationship we do so with expectations. Some are basic needs and necessary. You respect me… I’ll respect you. You listen to me… I’ll listen to you.
Some are more complicated than that and can cause a toxic result. One of the most distorted expectations we can enter a relationship with is…
You fix me… I’ll fix you.
When we enter a relationship, whether it be a significant other, a friend, a family member or a co-worker, and the premise is that we are expecting them to heal something within us, it can also lead to a tendency… in order to make it balanced… to make a subconscious decision to help fix them as well. There are several problems with this:
- They might not feel they need to be fixed
- They may not be aware of this necessary “balanced” state and want to receive all the ‘fixing’.\
- You or both can be left feeling perpetually empty and lacking
- It creates a false sense that you will always be on point with how to fix or help each other
Any time we look to others to fix what is broken in us we are just setting ourselves up for failure.
You know the feeling. You’re going along in a great mood. Everything is wonderful. You feel valued, empowered, grateful, life is freaking amazing! Then something happens. Someone says something at work. You see on social media that friends got together and didn’t ask you. Your puppy didn’t run to the door for you… and it all happened on the same day. Your self-value has gone from an absolute 10 to about a 5. You reach out to that significant other or family member or co-worker or friend (not the one that went out without you!) for them to make you feel better.
And they nail it!
What happens? Your value meter goes right back up to a 10 again.
Life goes on again… (insert scene from La La Land here) and …WHAM! A few weeks later something happens again. You lose a client, a traumatic event like losing a family member or close friend, or you’re just plain feeling less than. You need to feel better and in the hopes of feeling understood and validated you call that lifeline….but they too are having a bad day and fail miserably. They just can’t be there for you that day. What happens then?
We expected them to fix us … and they didn’t. We may let our anger out on them for not being there for us. We may shut down. We may pull back and become emotionally unavailable. We resent them for not helping. For not helping us to heal. For not helping us feel better. For not…
Here is where we rip off that band-aid…
Whose responsibility was it in those moments to make ourselves feel whole? Who is the one we ultimately should be seeking solace and love from?
Us………. Ourselves………. Our hearts
See… it’s awesome when we have those friends to help offer us another perspective to situations. Those people we can call that know how to make us feel better about the situation. But there’s a difference between helping us to feel better about what happened versus helping us to feel better about ourselves. That’s where the expectation that they can “fix” us comes into play.
That needs to be an inside job. Yes, people disappoint us and yes, people hurt us. I’m not saying feeling anger and hurt aren’t justified when we feel ignored. I’m not saying we don’t have the right to feel disappointed and abandoned. Those feelings can be worked out and talked through and processed later with that loved one. But the feelings surrounding the event that made us feel less valued to begin with are OUR responsibility to work through and get our meter back to a 10. It is up to US to fix US.
This is where the teaching moments come in. This is the part where we need to focus on … becoming the master of our feelings…before we can enter any relationship. Expecting others to carry our emotional baggage is the same as helping people because we want them to like us rather than coming from a place of authenticity.
It robs us of the opportunity to know and be aware of who we really are.
In today’s world, we’ve done an excellent job of saying it’s ok to feel and that enlightenment and awareness of those feelings is something to be strived for. What we also are required to do… is to create opportunities to educate, train and give options as to what to do with those feelings and how to process them.
It’s like a therapist in a session saying Come on! Be angry! It’s OK to be angry!! Yeah!! You got it! Oops.. ok time’s up.. same time next week?
In order to help ourselves heal after that value meter goes from a 10 to a 5 or below, we need to do more than just accept that we feel sad or angry or jilted. We need to learn what to do with the way we feel and repair what is broken in us at that moment. That is what I mean when I say Fix. What does this process look like for me?
Well, first I assign ownership to where the hurt came from and acknowledge that. Then, I need to take ownership for my part. What we I control. I’ve learned the need to be aware of how to work through these feelings and work on that. It takes time and practice. Lots and lots of practice.
I’d like to share a personal story as an example.
My father passed away recently as a result of a fall. Prior to that fall, he was lively, fun and the sidearm of my mom for 60 years. His loss left me struggling to deal with the feelings. As a mental health survivor of depression (I would say more of a “manager” of depression because it never really goes away) I didn’t want to look inside to face the grief because the last time I went there…it was a tough battle back.
So… there was my grief, like that toddler trying to get their parents attention while they are having an adult conversation at a dinner party. Holding my hand up at them, I would turn to the person to my left at the table to help me feel better. Then turn to the person to on my right at the dinner table to help me feel better. All the while the grief, like the toddler, kept trying to tell me what they wanted. What they needed.
Until… finally… the toddler peed all over the dinner host’s new carpet!
Yes… my grief was trying the whole time that it needed to be heard. I needed to pay attention to it because it needed and deserved my attention!
So, I let go of my fear, using what I was trained to do in helping others as a Mental Health Professional… and listened to what it needed from me. I gave it the understanding it needed. I sat with it and felt it. I cried. I took the burden off my spouse, my friends and my family to make me feel better and just allowed myself to not feel happy. I talked to my grief.
“Yes, it’s ok that you’re visiting me. Yes, it’s ok if you stay for a while and set up your home in my heart.”
But I also know now that I needed to ask that toddler, that grief, to learn to share their space with others named Joy, Gratitude and the presence of good and love. They can’t take up the whole playroom for themselves.
Now… how did I get to this point?
Here are some pointers I’ve come up with:
1. JOURNAL – writing your feelings down and getting it out of your head and out into the world. This alone offers instant gratification. It can make a huge problem seem smaller once it’s out or it can make you look at it as if you are in the 3rd person giving a fresh perspective.
2. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA – I cannot stress this enough. When I was younger and a boyfriend broke up with me I would go to my room, put on my headphones (actually it was my brothers room because he had the stereo and turntable) plug them in and listen to a Joe Walsh Album over and over again. If I really wanted a good cry it would be Cat Stevens! The point is… before the days of social media we had time to sit with our feelings. It’s not just the act of scrolling on social media that is harmful or stunting…it’s the fact that chemically and scientifically your brain needs time to process and can’t do so if it’s always occupied. Accept how you’re feeling and stay off social media until you feel you have a clear perspective about it.
3. TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL – I know this may sound contradictory to the term “working things out by yourself” but…that friend you rely on to help you feel better? They aren’t trained to be professional and listen and help you process!! That’s why Therapists, Counselors, Helplines and Mental Health Workers are called professionals. No matter how bad their day was they are trained to be there for you and help you to master the art of how you feel. Understanding why we have these feelings is the first step to healing them.
4. NEVER TEXT IN YOUR PAJAMAS – yes… this one is one from experience. What it means is this… If you’re sad or angry or feel the need to blame someone… sit with it. When you’re finally alone after that long day and you’re sitting there stewing about it in your elastic waistband PJ pants and baggy t-shirt, don’t text. Just don’t. This is such a hard lesson for those of us that are expressive and operate from an emotional state. But don’t. Put the phone down. Watch some Netflix or Amazon Prime (no, I’m not an influencer), grab some ice cream or popcorn then head to bed. In the morning, you’ll thank yourself.
If you can learn to practice even one of the steps listed, then you are on your way to a healthier habit of managing your emotions and handling your hurts.
Life is so meant to be lived and loving is part of that. So is losing… whether the loss is an actual physical death or a death of a relationship… they can both bring the same grief. Hurting is also a part of living.
Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with each other. Be accepting of each other. Be aware of how you feel and why …then give it the understanding it needs. Most of all…
Be well… and learn how to fix yourself first.
Debbie Marini is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor/Owner of The Awareness Impact and is pursuing her Coaching Certification to work with youth and teach them how to tap into their own resilience, strength and build an understanding of their value.