I used to be terrified that my husband would leave me…either he wouldn’t want to be married to me any more or he would die.
I had all sorts of theories as to why I was so afraid: because my father “left” me when he and my mother got divorced, because I was “fat” and therefore unlovable, because I finally had a life I loved so of course it would be snatched away from me.
Underneath that fear was a deeper, more selfish fear: What if I can’t take care of myself? Because I am not a responsible person? I certainly had evidence that that might be true.
It was after working with a client who had the very same fear that I had a HUGE ah-ha moment: for some of us, there may be a connection between being able to take care of ourselves emotionally and being taking care of ourselves on a more practical level.
There are two dynamics at work: 1) we give away responsibility for our emotions to others and, at the same time, 2) we believe that we are responsible for the feelings of others.
“I’m pissed because she didn’t [fill in the blank].”
“He hurt my feelings.”
“Don’t do that, it’s irritating me.”
“Don’t be upset, I didn’t mean it.”
“It upsets me when you do that.”
“I am so embarrassed because she [fill in the blank].”
“I can’t believe you did that!”
If we’ve had these sorts of thoughts over and over again…especially if we’ve said them out loud, or heard other people saying them, we start to believe them. We believe that we have little or no power over how we feel, either because it wasn’t safe to feel what we felt, or because we were trying to please others, believing that we could make them happy. And so we live “in reaction” because we have no clue that we can actually make a choice in any given moment.
That said, of course we’re taught that we’re responsible for our actions, right? And that we’re supposed to be able to do all the practical stuff associated with “being responsible.”
But if we haven’t made the connection between the way we act, behave, and generally show up in the world, to how we feel inside, and if we’ve given that responsibility to someone else, how can it feel possible or even safe to take care of oneself, either emotionally or practically? Of course we feel helpless.
And so I practice, in an effort to master, the ability to be fully responsible for my emotions, and the more I do this, the more able I am to take care of myself on a practical level.
Responsible = being able to respond.
I’d love to hear your take on this. Do you feel able to take care of yourself, emotionally and practically?