Whose emotions are these anyway?

Have you ever asked yourself why it's so difficult for you to be around certain family members. Perhaps you feel like you are walking on eggshells most of the time, afraid that at any given moment the atmosphere is going to change and either you or those you care about are about to be in the firing line. You're left feeling anxious, confused, inadequate and afraid. 


You ask yourself, why does this keep happening? What did I do wrong? How can I fix this?

You try listening to them, you try reasoning with them, you try to communicate how you feel. But, no matter how you try to approach the situation (through the back door, through the window, behind the curtain), the situation remains the same.

Over time, the feelings that you are left with when around this individual become internalised. You forget that you were feeling quite happy before you had this interaction with this person and, slowly but surely, you see yourself as an inadequate, anxious, confused and afraid person who, no matter what they do, always seem to get it wrong.

The self-doubt, erosion of confidence and even your own identity seems to ebb away. You lose connection with yourself. You feel it's easier to just comply and do what it is they want from you. You convince yourself that it’ll get easier, they may see the error of their ways. But things will never change... nothing ever does.

There may be fleeting attempts at change occasionally when situations do escalate.  Just enough breadcrumbs are thrown to keep you captive in the confusion. They keep you holding on to a glimmer of light, but it usually goes as quick as it came.

Slowly, over time, you may meet other people through the course of your life, at work, catch something on the radio, observe an interaction that seems once familiar. That reminds you that the situation you are in isn’t healthy. You remember you're not happy and maybe, just maybe you need support.

You slowly become aware of the reality of the situation which, in turn, evokes an inner conflict. What will happen if I do seek help? Will this change anything? How will it help?

This state of second-guessing may hold you for months or even years but, once you are aware, it can make the mask more intolerable to wear. You feel a spiritual malady; an emotional hole that can't be filled no matter what we put inside as an attempt to fill and satiate the hole in your soul.

How can therapy help?

Accessing therapy can be the first step into regaining your own identity. Sifting through the rubble of the internal conflict within to begin to identify whose emotions are whose, how you truly feel about events without fear of being judged, shut down or feel guilty about.

Finally, you can have the support to develop your own sense of autonomy rather than be paralysed in the tangled web of co-dependence and/or psychological abuse.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40
Written by Donna West, MBACP (Accred)ACTO (Snr) Psychotherapist/Clinical supervisor
St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40

I have worked with an array of clients whom have accessed counselling for varying reasons that they feel are inhibiting them from living an authentic life. My role within the therapeutic relationship is to work alongside an individual to facilitate self-exploration and consider alternative routes that may lay before them.

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