wst february 08. too much.

too much.

I feel too much.

I feel feelings that aren’t my own. More specifically, I feel my kids’ feelings. I sympathize and empathize, but I go too far. I’ve seen it called toxic empathy, but that makes it sound so awful. Maybe it is.

When one of my kids is going through something difficult, I over-identify with them to the point of taking on their feelings as my own. When they are anxious, I’m anxious. When they are sad, I’m sad. When they’re upset, I’m upset. But it’s not that simple.

Being over-empathetic, I not only absorb their feelings, I also absorb their problems. There are two major issues with this.

(1) I become more involved than I should. I try so hard to help—to fix things (that are not mine to fix but I feel like they are)—that I make things worse for them. I’m probably getting on their nerves, for one, but also, by interfering, I’m taking away opportunities for them to learn how to handle things on their own. I step over the line because the line is blurry, if not invisible, to me.

[Aside: I have trouble determining when to get involved and when not to. It seems I always make the wrong choice—I get involved when they don’t want me to, or I don’t get involved and they think I don’t care. I never seem to get it right.]

(2) Taking on their problems and emotions on top of my own, I become overwhelmed. But I’m incapable of separating theirs from mine. I take them all. And then I feel drained and exhausted. And of course, I prioritize their problems over my own. I’m told this is bad because if I’m better, I’m better for them. Yet I can’t seem to focus on me. My heart says focus on them; my brain knows I should focus on me. Guess which one wins?

(Not my actual heart.)

I can even take it a step further.

I get so consumed by their emotions that I feel them more intensely than they do. I’m more sad, more upset, more anxious than they are. That’s so fucked up! I feel physically stressed (and sometimes physically sick) when they have something bad going on. I go into emotional overdrive. Hell, I’m often still upset about things after the kids have gotten over them! So fucked up.

It’s also selfish. I unintentionally make it about me—I am anxious, I am sad, I am upset, I am overwhelmed—when the matters at hand and the emotions that go along with them are not mine. It’s not about my feelings. It’s about theirs.

So what do I do?

As I read about this, I came to the advice section (as one always does) telling me how to fix this. Here are two things I saw repeatedly (neither of which helps me).

Draw boundaries—their problems are not mine, and I’m not required to take on their burdens.

I’m not sure this applies since I’m talking about my kids. In some ways, their problems are mine. But there does need to be a line somewhere. I just can’t see it.

Don’t let their emotions overtake your mind and body—focus on relaxation and let those feelings go.

This gem of wisdom applies to pretty much anything stressful. And it’s easier said than done. In fact, I can’t do it at all. I end up curling into a ball of despair, crying and struggling to function. But I’m not exactly a model of mental health.

So, again, what do I do?

I don’t know. When I try to distance myself from a situation, I feel like a terrible parent. But when I get too involved and try too hard to help, I’m also a terrible parent. I know the answer is somewhere in the middle, but I can’t seem to find balance.

(click image to view larger)

I’d like to feel them too much. I said what I said.

p.s. — I’d like to think that I’m subconsciously trying to take their pain away. The more I take, the less they’ll have. But it doesn’t work like that. Besides, their emotions are not mine to take. I wouldn’t rip a cookie out of their hand and eat it myself. And I can’t do that with emotions either. I need to let them have their cookie and eat my own. That doesn’t mean I don’t know how delicious their cookies are, it just means I’m letting them have that deliciousness instead of taking it from them. (Bad analogy.) 

But I don’t even know if that’s what’s going on. I may just be overly emotional, needy, and selfish. I want all the cookies. 

©2022 what sandra thinks

About what sandra thinks

Sandra is a writer, sometimes blogger, poet, artist, emotional disaster. She thinks far too much and sleeps far too little. Sandra lives in the Northeastern U.S. but dreams of an oceanfront home in Italy, but she would settle for a non-oceanfront home in Italy. She loves books, brutal honesty, coffee, and the color black. She hates insincerity, beer, whipped cream, and facebook. And she is uncomfortable talking about herself in the third person.
This entry was posted in blogging, challenge, life, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to wst february 08. too much.

  1. scr4pl80 says:

    How old are the kids? I know as a mom I always want to “fix” things too but my kids are all adults now, 35, 33 and 25, so they really have their own agendas. They do come and ask my opinion and such but most of the time I’m just a sounding board at this point. I have to trust that I did a good job as they were growing up and now they are self-reliant adults.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My son is 17 and my daughter is 14.

      One of my issues is that I don’t think I’m doing a good job as a mom at all. I’m worried that they won’t have a good life because of me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • scr4pl80 says:

        You’d be surprised. I once asked the kids if they had any good childhood memories and they were able to tell me a lot of them, some that even i didn’t remember.


        • I ask my kids that now and they stare at me blankly. I’ve done a terrible job. People love to say it’s not about money, but we haven’t been able to give our kids the memories I wish we could. And people who say it’s not about money are the people who have money so they have no idea.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Featured in February – 2022 – Too Much? | Janet's Smiles

  3. Bloglifenstuff says:

    I definitely understand this post.

    Liked by 1 person

thoughts? talk to me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.