It’s not easy for me to even write the above headliner for this post. I feel that at all times I need to have compassion for others and that it may be my responsibility to do something to make things better, after all isn’t that what open hearted, caring people do? That said I know when I get into trouble by being over concerned for another person’s suffering. It then affects me a lot and makes it harder for me to live my life, I may also feel that if I don’t show enough empathy or compassion I am being mean or may lose connection or love when really I may just be trying to draw a boundary between not over giving and my own needs.
In the early days of my last relationship a lot of it was given over to hearing all about the pain of my ex’s past failed relationship with a girlfriend who went into a psychosis. I am not entirely clear but I am sure drugs of some kind were involved at the time. I was abstinent then for over 13 years of sobriety and knowing I was a sober person in recovery attracted him to me, while we were together he tried to ‘pretend’ he wasn’t in to drinking or drugging though I would never put that kind of pressure on a relationship ever as my ex husband drank moderately throughout all the 11 years of our marrage. I had alarm bells go off when he was down playing not only this last person he was in relationship with as well as his ex wife, saying all kinds of things about her and how she let him down which turned out to be all untrue when I found out the real story a few months after our relationship ended. Toward the end I also heard he had been drinking and drugging behind my back and then trying to blame me for putting pressure on him NOT To which I NEVER did.
Anyway, all throughout the relationship I was often pressured to give up my boundary if I was to gain his love. He made it clear early on that his needs came first. I was to keep in line and support him as he needed it and it was made clear that if I got ‘over emotional’ I would be shut out, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. Sadly I was starting to grieve so many of my earlier losses just before I met him and that relationship gave me an opportunity to lift the lid on a lot of pain that I was then shamed and blamed for. I was told that I must do therapy but it was out of the question for him….
Long story short I ended up giving myself away to be loved and in the end losing myself along the way while unconsciously blaming myself for not measuring up. And now that I am thinking of trying to have a relationship again a lot of this is rearing its head…..I have a lot of fears based on past things he said to me that still dog me even though several therapists have pointed out to me that they were not reasonable nor true.
This time around I know I need to take care of me and keep my boundaries strong. I can be compassionate but not fall for sob stories, even after that last relationship I got scammed on internet sites twice for not large sums of money (but considerable ones). I ended up putting a boundary in place with the first guy and was foolish to trust the second one when he said it was just a loan to cover an over extension that would be paid back in a few weeks. It was just another lesson in a different form.
Anyway it was while thinking of this issue that I just picked up Bev Aisbett’s book on 30 Days 30 Ways to Overcome Anxiety and it opened to page 158 of Day 23 entitled “None of Your Beeswax” a chapter devoted to the dangers of people pleasing (which she points out is very common to people experiencing anxiety, in her words “especially if LITTLE YOU is seeing others as having POWER over you”).
if you’re trying to keep everyone happy (usually at your own expense) then you’re either letting people wander all over your space, doing what they like in YOUR territory, or you’re jumping the fence to fix their broken tape or dig up their weeds while they LET YOU.
RESCUING is another form of people pleasing. It means you spend a lot of time worrying about others’ problems, advising them, jumping in to help them if you think they aren’t up to doing things themselves.
While all this sounds NOBLE it can, in fact, be a big factor in keeping your OVERWHELMED and ANXIOUS. That is because you’re not only trying to meet your own needs (if at all) but you are also second guessing the needs of OTHERS.
Freeing yourself from wobbly boundaries is the undertanding that you can’t really SAVE anyone; nor is it your job. It is also the understanding that what others do is not yours to TAKE ON BOARD, nor CONTROL.
The only way for a person to solve his or her problem is first to OWN it and take RESPONSIBILITY for it. Not everyone one WILL do that but basically, if it’s not YOUR problem, it’s not yours to SOLVE.
The only thing you have CONTROL over is how you RESPOND to their behavior.
When you spend less time worrying about what someone ELSE is doing, you have more time to get you sorted
According to Aisbett a key clue to the fact we may have lost a boundary or over run it is : feelings of resentment during or after an interaction. When working with boundaries we also need to be honest about when reactions are coming out of a fear of disapproval from someone. We need to be fearless and honest in stating our limit about what we need and don’t need as well and this can be threatening or triggering if we fear abandonment due to past issues.
As I look back to my difficult relationship with my ex I can now see he had no problem with setting his own boundaries and I am sure I had lesson in this regard. A failure of empathy though is an issue which can be damaging.
We can show empathy to someone without feeling like we need to fix or solve things for them. Showing empathy actually has been proved to increase the production of feel good hormones such as oxytocin. But when empathy becomes over care, over concern and over giving, it soon becomes problematic and may come from a refusal at times to take care of our own life. It may also be a strong contributing factor to anxiety.