One of the things I have discovered about myself is that when confronted with negative emotions, specifically sadness, anger or frustration, I tend to shut down. The hard part of this is when I need to be strong for someone that I care for that at times the other person has to comfort me in order to help me through their emotional turmoil. It’s not very fair to the other person, so of course I’ve been talking to my therapist about this issue.
Survivors tend to shut down their emotions because we need to save our energy to be functional for the day. It takes a lot of energy to understand and process emotions, especially when our brains aren’t wired yet to handle the overwhelming flood of feelings. For myself, I have a need to fix and repair things, especially when someone is confiding in me their problems. Most of the time, people only need a listening ear, but I try to solve their issues, even if it’s only in my head. When I was younger, it was difficult because I didn’t have the tools to be able to solve anyone’s problems. But I was compelled because my personality seems hard-wired to fix a person’s life.
Yet as a young man, I couldn’t fix most of what was around me. Since I couldn’t fix people’s problems, I had no other way of figuring out what to do, so I reverted to shutting down completely. Now as an adult, when confronted with negative emotions, I can do nothing more but listen and feel my body shut off the rest of the world completely. My inactions hurt the others around me and damage my closest relationships.
There is a solution though. I can realize that none of the other’s person issues are my problems to solve. I can remember that I just need to actively listen to someone and feel the sadness or hurt they are experiencing. But I don’t have to do anything about it. I can walk away, live my life, and have sympathy and empathy for those around me that are hurting. I’m not quite there, yet, but I think I’m on my way to being a better friend for those around me.