Balancing Our Feelings v. Suppressing Them
Maintaining healthy relationships requires balancing other people's feelings with our own.
Balancing our needs is an important part of empathizing.
When we’re in healthy relationships, we consider our feelings as well as the feelings of those in our care community. Wanting to protect people in our care community from unhappy feelings is natural, but at what point does protecting someone else from negative feelings turn into the suppression of our own?
Showing that we respect someone and want to be a good experience for them requires empathy and balance, but it does not require unacknowledged self-sacrifice.
Being mindful of our own peace and managing who’s participating in protecting it, allows us to coordinate protection with other people in a mutually beneficial—and consented—way.
Expressing our feelings can feel like a burden, especially if we’re considering how they might make someone else feel. It’s sometimes easier to absorb our feelings rather than share them. We convince ourselves we can be a good experience for other people if we’re not burdening them with our feelings and needs.
But feelings hold weight, we either carry the weight alone or share it with others.
When we’re unable to openly express our feelings and the needs that stem from them, we allow other people to choose which needs they’re going to address in us which can result in a lot of unmet needs and unequal weight distribution.
The most important aspect of every healthy relationship is met needs.
When we choose to genuinely and authentically express our feelings and needs, three things happen:
We validate ourselves and take an initial stand in protecting our peace, setting the foundation for stable communication whether it be agreeable or adversarial.
We demonstrate to our care partners which of our feelings and needs require consideration.
We take back control of assigning our own self-worth.
The desire to have others protect our peace, address our feelings, and meet our needs is human. We’re communal beings. But in order for those things to take place, there needs to be a mutual exchange of information.
Waiting to see which feelings are addressed by others becomes a sort of litmus test to our own self-worth. Deciding which feelings and needs require attention and speaking openly about that, allows us to determine what’s important. We also, then, get to determine if the people in our care community are willing and able to address the feelings and needs we’ve prioritized.
Expressing ourselves clearly and allowing people in our care community to respond, allows us to decide who is worthy of being in our care community and experiencing our vulnerability.
If they respond appropriately, we know they’re a safe place for us to exist and if they respond negatively we can either let them know what we need and give them a chance to correct it or we can make the necessary decisions to keep our own communities safe and stable.
So when does balancing our feelings with other people’s feelings turn into suppression of our own?
When we start to fill in other people’s stories for them.
Communication is the most powerful tool we have in coordinating the protection of our peace and the safety of our care communities. Balancing feelings means entering communication with empathy and understanding rather than protecting our care partners from negative experiences.
Allowing all of the natural feelings—negative or positive—to arise and get resolved in an authentic way deepens the connection between two people. Our wants and needs change all the time and so do the wants and needs of the people in our care community. Giving people a chance to solidify their stance or reinvent themselves right in front of us communicates that we’re a safe place for fluid communication and we can adapt to changing needs, theirs and our own.
Taking an assertive position for ourselves means that our interactions with other people hold less weight. We’re not as offended if they’re unable to consider our feelings the way we’d like, we know our feelings still matter and that maybe we need to find someone more worthy of our vulnerability.
Determining our feelings worthy of communication and consideration allows us to assign their worth rather than sort out confusion around the worth others have assigned to our feelings.