It's irritating when you're perfectly aware of your behavioural glitches. That sounds so robotic. At first, I called them flaws, but that seemed so harsh. I changed it to 'issues', except that can encompass so many things and I wasn't sure you, the reader, would understand what I was getting at. So, I adjusted the sentence to read defects, only to erase it because I didn't think it was PC enough. And here we are with behavioural glitches.
Even more frustrating, to the point of pulling your hair out, is when you have no idea how to work past your behavioural glitches. Some might simply embrace them, shrug their shoulders and say, "This is who I am, deal with it." I can't do that. Partly because some of my behavioural glitches work against me by preventing me from being happy. This doesn't fly for me. Since, I don't want to walk around unhappy and let the past derail my future, I've decided to dedicate time to confronting my...flaws. My issues. My deep-rooted emotional crap.
Today I am talking about one of my most aggravating behavioural glitches - owning other people's emotions and problems. This is a pretty big subject for me. You better get comfortable. We might be here for awhile.
We are all influenced by other people.
No, I'm not saying we are copycats or clones. Rest assured, you're a vibrant little piper and you drum along to your own unique beat. That said, you're still subjected to people every single day and, whether you like it or not, they influence you. Sure, the degree in which they influence you varies, but they still have a morsel of power over your life. Whether it is your taste in music, clothes, movies, or food, people guide, shape and mould you. Oh, they also have the ability to inspire and discourage you. Push you forward or hold you back.
Interestingly enough,people don't spend a lot of time thinking about how they influence others. Strangers. Friends. Lovers. Parents. Siblings. We interact with them and they interact with us. Whether we are bit players or have starring roles, we hold a place in each others lives. Even if we only have a cameo in the second act, our actions and words could change the entire show! That thought freaks me out. Yeah, I'd love to change someone's day for the better, to inspire them, encourage them, be some sort of awesome ray of unbeatable sunshine blazing down on their dark day and warming them from the outside in, but that's not possible to do every day. Sometimes I'm a nasty, sharp-tongued, frustrated bitch, and I'd hate to think about what sort of influence I am on those days.
For the most part, I watch what I say and do. Not only because I'd hate to negatively affect someone, but because I've only recently started learning how to communicate properly. Ever since I was a child, I was under the impression my feelings and thoughts came second. Those sharing circles in school never got anything out of me. These days I understand the importance of talking to people. Not at them. And listening. Not just hearing. But actually listening and understanding.
When it comes to other people, I'm a bit of a tough nut. Flippant comments from strangers or a co-workers bad mood don't affect me. I can shrug those things off without a second thought. But when it comes to people I care about, the ones I adore, respect and want to be happy, I am highly influenced. Most notably by their moods. Granted, if anyone spends all day with a sour-puss they are bound to feel a little angsty, but I am talking on a grander scale. I own other people's emotions and it is one of my most frustrating behavioural glitches.
Let me preface this by saying, it is irrational and utterly ridiculous, but I feel guilty when someone I care about is upset and frustrated. I'm not talking about simply being empathetic or sympathetic. I'm talking about me internally reverting back to the meek child I once was, tip-toeing around the person in question and trying desperately to fix whatever is wrong. Yes, it's messed up, but I take it personally when someone I love is complaining, in pain or agitated.
All I want to do is fix whatever is wrong. Except, a lot of the time, it can't be fix. Certainly not by me. And often the person doesn't even want me to fix it. They want me to sit there and listen and offer a consoling head nod or back pat. Unfortunately, I lack the necessary skills to identify what is my fault and what isn't. Sounds bonkers, right? Well, it is. What's even worse is that I know it's my behavioural glitch, but have no idea how to change it.
It doesn't even matter what the issue is. From the big to the small, I get myself worked up over other people's problems. It can be as simple as the dog misbehaving, a stranger saying a barbed comment or them sleeping wrong and having a kink in their neck. Essentially, these things are out of my control, yet I feel responsible for them. And when it comes to the big things, the deaths and family turmoil and financial issues, well, they are still out of my control and unfixable.
How do I reach a place where I don't feel at fault? Even when I know in my heart that it isn't me there is still an inkling of doubt, like I am inadvertently and unknowingly contributing to the problem. Like just my presence is enough to make the situation worse. All I want is to be loving and give the person the support and affection they need when they are upset. In the past, I used to shut down and withdraw, grow quiet and sometimes even get angry. That isn't fair though. People have the right to express their emotions. They are not responsible for my behavioural glitch. And even if I tell them this is something I do, I cannot expect them to stop complaining or sharing their problems for the sake of keeping me at peace. People need to vent. The last thing I want is someone I care about tiptoeing around me, not sharing and bottling up their own emotions. I am responsible for my reactions. I control that. But I'm not doing a very good job.
Last night, I was text battling my sister about this very issue and in an oh-so-simple way, she said, "When we were growing up we were taught that we were responsible for other people's feelings. You're probably experiencing a trigger from childhood. It might be connected to a fear of losing what or who you love because you can't change to meet their needs."
Well, slap me in the face and call me Sally.
Not only do I have a tendency to suppress my own feelings, but it's ingrained in me to take responsibility for other people's. How very backwards of me. As you may or may not know, I've been working hard at own my own feelings, confronting them and throwing them on the table instead of disregarding them like they aren't important. Because they are important. This road to being a functioning adult is long and confusing. I get lost so easily.
The truly painful part comes from recognizing how much this behavioural glitch has derailed me in the past. It's hard constantly feeling to blame. It's harder feeling helpless and useless, and being unable to make things better. In the past I didn't identify this behaviour. I didn't understand where it came from and took it out on the other person, demanding they they stop complaining for the sake of my sanity. That wasn't fair of me. I recognize the importance of allowing people to have their emotions and not tangling myself up in them or taking them to heart.
Perhaps being able to recognize this behavioural glitch is the first step to correcting it. For now, I simply remind myself that I'm not responsible for the rainy day, a computer crashing, misplaced keys, a barking dog, or car troubles. And I'll try to hush the little girl inside of me who is harbouring a major guilt complex, the annoying bitch, and try to influence people for the better. Like ensuring they listen to good music.