We often project our emotions or absorb the emotions of others around us. The focus of this post is on those who find themselves overwhelmed by the emotions of others, to the point that it often becomes intertwined with their own emotions.
It is good, and we are certainly encouraged to empathise with others. But, there is a fine line between simply empathising with another person’s state and fully rooting your own emotional identity in their experience.
Moreover, as a Christian, it is a purposeful gift to be able to discern and empathise with the feelings and experiences of others. However, this gift should not become a burden; and a gift only becomes a burden when it is misused. The misuse comes in the ‘saviour-complex’ which some believers often adopt. That urge to try and do what only God can do. The urge to carry a load that really wasn’t meant for you. In fact, a load that the Bible instructs us to cast onto the Lord (Psalm 55:22).
So how do you deal with the overwhelming emotions projected by others around you? How do you ensure that you do not root your emotional identity in the emotions of another person?
Whenever you feel like the above, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and actually orally vocalise or write down your answer:
1. Acknowledge your current state: How do I feel?
2. Identify the source: Why do I feel this way? Are these feelings mine?
3. Separate your emotions from theirs (cognitive disputing): is it logical for me to feel like this? Is it practical for me to feel like this? Is there any evidence which suggests that I should feel like this?
After asking the questions above, complete these tasks:
1. Reality testing: Replace those faux emotions with the truth. Eg. I feel rejected, but there is no evidence to suggest that I have been rejected. The truth is, I have not been rejected.
2. Intentionality: Always find the source of your emotions. E.g. I feel down because I watched the horrifying news about xyz. Never stop at, ‘I feel down’. Period. You must intentionally find the source and know whether those feelings belong to you or not.
3. Check your environment and guard the gates of your body (ears, eyes, mouth): Is a person, object, social media app, the news or a website overwhelming you with projected emotions? Identify your triggers and guard the gates of your body like a gateman. Know what you can allow in and what needs to be kept at bay.
I hope this helps someone! Let me know if you’ve experienced what I’ve described above and whether some of these strategies are useful.
Important: if you are experiencing periods of unexplained low moods please seek medical advice by speaking to your General Practioner or a trained therapist.