I absorb emotions. I believe it’s a form of empathy gone awry, but I find many times I’m extra sensitive to the emotions in the room. I’m an unintentional emotional vampire.
By birth, I’m technically a middle child. My older sister is so many years older that it can at times mean I act like an older child as well. Being a middle child comes with distinct emotional baggage. Most middle children are quiet peace makers, fading into the background, and easy going. I have older child tendencies as well. I’m a perfectionist with anxious leanings. I’m burdened by the need to excel and overachieve. I also feel obligated to take care of everyone and be responsible for all things in my life. I can’t see the future, but I can imagine every single possible worst case scenario and fret about it.
I’m also super susceptible to emotions. Empathy can make me great at my job, but it can also burden me with anxiety.
There are times I don’t know if what I’m feeling are my own feelings. Some of this could be blamed on my upbringing, on being a middle child with older child tendencies. It could also be a result of a mother who can be overbearing.
Recently, I saw something on twitter about the fight/flight/fawn response. I’m a fawner. Too often, I allowed what was expected of me to cause me to back down when it came to my own desires. I’ve learned, after being in an environment where what I wanted was often ignored, that being quiet and acquiescing calmed an otherwise volatile situation down. My opinion didn’t matter as long as everyone was happy. I’ll take on others’ expectations and responses because it means there aren’t terrible emotions or heated responses to deal with in my orbit. I’m a retreater/pacifier.
I don’t always know if what I’m feeling is coming from me. Am I feeling this because this what what the other person expects? Have I stopped having an opinion because I’m uncomfortable and can’t figure out how to say what I’m actually thinking? It all ends with me struggling to make decisions because who is going to be unhappy about what I decide? So I just can’t decide on anything. One of the questions I loathe is “what are you going to do?” My response? “I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”
I’ve always found I lack a good grasp on what my needs are. More accurately, I on some level know my needs, but can’t articulate them. In the heat of the moment, if you ask me what I think, my reply will be “I don’t have any thoughts.” Maybe on some level I’m waiting to be told. Or I’m waiting for an opportunity to decompress. All the intense emotions just make me shutdown. I don’t feel safe to say what I think because someone will get mad. Someone always gets mad when I say what I think so why bother?
This is all a coping mechanism.
This has been a life long struggle. I retreat and offer the responses expected. I have to disengage from the emotional moment because I don’t know how to respond, but give me time to write it out and I do a bit better.
I’m 35 years old and have no fucking idea how to figure out my own feelings. For someone who can’t recognize their own feelings though, I’ve always struggled with feeling too much.
But it’s what I pay my therapist the big bucks to help me sort out, isn’t it? She’s been pressing me lately to be aware of and vocal about my needs. Not to let what others what derail verbalizing what’s going on inside me. She’s also trying to help me see how every emotion (even the ones I don’t recognize) have a place. They’re trying to get me to deal with or cope with or navigate something. I’ve run away from my emotions for years because I don’t know what they look like well enough to deal with them.
Every thing is baby steps, right? Little by little we grow and deal with our own baggage. My suitcase is taking time to unpack.