“Did You Hear What I Said?”

These were the words I heard from my coworker as I turned to start my computer. I flipped my head around thinking I was in fourth grade again and the teacher slammed the yardstick on his desk, breaking it into pieces.

“Yes, I heard you! What response did you need me to say?”

“I asked you if had embarrassed you earlier.”

“So you’re attempting to talk even louder at me, possibly embarrassing me further, in order to get the response you need? This tells me that you don’t really care if I was actually embarrassed, you’re more concerned with resolving your own guilt at possibly alienating yourself from who you think you are from you you are acting like; by telling yourself that you would never do anything to hurt anyone so as to quickly resolve that conflict within yourself.”

I admit I am a horrible communicator sometimes. I also admit I have been that person and still sometimes am. I still need certain things from people at various times in order to make me feel better. I still need to know if everything is ok. Sometimes going over the line to make sure.

The truth was, I just didn’t feel like engaging in her useless banter that day. Yes, I should have stated that, but sometimes you just don’t have the energy, ya know?

Brooke Dean’s article on “Behaviors that push people away” states that:

People who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around. Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to win over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.

I’ve been there. Even before my son was caught in the web of addiction and I feared for his safety; he was always very busy running his businesses and would sometimes go days before responding to my text. He said once, “Why do you need an immediate response?” He was genuinely curious, not accusatory. I told him the reason why, which stems from having a Mom who would lock herself in the bathroom and go silent despite my pleadings.

I had spent many years working on resolving this insecurity in various ways with friends, lovers, and even bosses. This was an emotional need that I required.

The phrase: Are you mad at me? Was my question to many of acquaintances in my life.

You could argue that my coworkers insistence was just one of common social expectations of ‘courtesy’ but where is the fine line to that? People argue all the time about expectations/demands versus acceptance and disappointment. With all these relationship requirements, we all need validation at times, even as emotionally healthy adults.

When you are at your most vulnerable and in need of emotional support, who do you turn to? Is it the best friend of many years? The non- judgemental sister who always has your back? The co-worker who’s always ready to offer encouragement without adding in her drama?

Having these people and their support is invaluable. And we should take the grace of their friendship as the true gift it is. But what if you don’t have anyone? Where do you find support?

So often we turn to social media for validation of our most intimate emotional needs. Or we reach out to family or friends who are incapable of giving us what we want and need.

Sometimes, in our desperate attempts to relieve our anxiety, we don’t realize they are incapable. So we push through and keep trying. Trying to give them more and more information, to elicit the same feelings of concern or caring that we are having. We soon realize that they will never have the unique experiences that we have had which lead up to how we feel about a particular situation. They will never feel our particular twist of nauseating agony. It takes a unique person, such as the people named above, to really get a feel for the pain and discomfort that we feel. Most others are still suffering in their own way.  They are trying to merge their own healing roadblocks and can only see and feel as far as their pain allows them. They may have their own deep triggers which they haven’t had time to peel back the layers on.

When you are in emotional distress, and can’t self regulate; it might be beneficial to ask yourself:

Are you seeking warmth from an ice chest?

Are you wanting complete immediate validation by only telling one paragraph of your life?

Are you seeking strength from the weakness of others?

Would you go to a music shop to have your shoes re-soled?

Just as our best dance shoes need an expert sole- er, our souls need an expert healer. That expert is different for everyone. For some it’s Jesus or the God of their choice. For others it’s a skilled therapist.

The ability to self-regulate takes practice. It’s a daily de-stressor to calm our nerves. Maybe a glass of wine, if we are not prone to excess. Maybe an antidepressant or mild anti-anxiety.

And the ability to choose our helpers takes discernment. It took me years and years to learn this. I actually thought that if I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from others; they must just need more information. I wasn’t that far off base. This is the basis for almost every argument.

“If I just explain more, surely they’ll see my perspective.”

That may work for a customer service desk or for a bill collector or adjuster and some intimate relationships but for some relationships with certain personality types, it doesn’t give the results we want. These types just don’t have the capacity to meet us where we are.

Marina Zherebneko states that we all go in and out of our ability to empathize:

“There are some who may not develop compassionate empathy in their lifetime and there are others who experience emotional or cognitive empathy on varying levels. The bottom line here is that there are different levels to the types of empathy you may experience.”

Still others are just in to much if their own upheaval, like I stated above. Marina describes it this way:

“People who appear unempathetic could also have developed a lower capacity for empathy that caused them to become emotionally distant. Unempathetic people may show a lack of empathy as a defense mechanism as a result of a traumatic experience.”

In another article she sums up my experience with my coworker:

So the next time others respond differently than you would have in a similar social situation, knowing that some people are better at translating feeling to its outcome in the physical world can be one step closer to gauging greater emotional intelligence. Hopefully, this means that we can better understand how people around us process their own and other’s emotions.

Sometimes we may just have to ride it out ourselves with positive coping skills such as these from Shoalhaven psychology

  • Examples of safe, appropriate, and effective self-soothing behaviours
  • Squeezing a stress ball.
  • Listening to music.
  • Taking a warm bubble bath.
  • Taking a shower.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Hitting a punching bag.
  • Talking about your feelings.
  • Writing about your feelings.

I hope this helps next time you feel yourself needing some support. If self- soothing methods fail, just be careful who you reach out to. In my world, even some of the support groups can be very negative and although it may temporarily relieve the desire to vent; in the long run it creates an unhealthy toxicity that may be unhelpful to your specific situation.