Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Don’t Tell Me How I Feel

I was reminded the other day of something that used to happen quite often. I huge pet peeve of mine that trips my anger incredibly quickly: Don’t tell me how I feel and don’t assume you know how I’ll react.

It absolutely does not matter if you know. It absolutely does not matter if you’ve seen the situation a million times. It especially bothers me if you don’t actually know me that well, and/or it’s a situation I’ve never been in and you’re only speculating. You have no clue, Do. Not. Assume. I have a temper, and this pisses me the hell off.

The funny thing about this is, often with my parents or my idiot Exes, they would assume I was angry when I felt perfectly fine. It wasn’t until they started assuming how I felt and started telling me how I felt that I actually did start getting angry. It feels like I’m being pre-emptively attacked for a feeling I haven’t even had yet and I’m not even being given the chance to act how I would have wanted to act or could have acted. I’m being judged for something that hasn’t happened at all.

Keep your assumptions to yourself.

Here’s why:

It doesn’t allow for the opportunity to change. It doesn’t allow for growth. It doesn’t allow for someone to have their own emotional autonomy.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be cautious or discuss it, but you absolutely should not tell someone else how they feel or who they are, even in a moment. For example: Instead of saying, “I know things like this piss you off.” How about asking, “Do you have any reservations about doing this?” That allows us to express our own opinions and feelings about the situation without feeling attacked. Do you see the difference between the two statements? The first one is aggressive and takes away the persons ability to make up their own mind about how they feel about the situation. The second statement is engaging and allows for open discussion, if there’s anything to discuss, and doesn’t take away anything from anyone.

Too often our Loved Ones think they know better because they’ve seen our reactions oh so many times. I’ve noted it before, but they don’t typically realize what exactly it is we’re responding to, and occasionally it’s something that they’re doing, and not the situation that they’re hypothesizing about. That’s not to cast blame because ultimately we are responsible for our own actions. That’s to shed light on the fact that we need to shift focus on where work needs to be done and how communication needs to be handled. 

Edit: As an addendum to keep conversation productive on both sides here is a useful tip for those of us with BPD if we find our loved ones falling into these habits of assuming what our feelings or emotions are: Consider that perhaps it's not necessarily a bad thing because they have been paying attention to you, they have been listening and learning about who you are as someone they love and care about and have your best interest at heart. If, however, they have made an incorrect assumption, take a deep breath, and say something along the lines of: "I appreciate you having learned that about me, but I've worked on trying to change that about myself, or that's not how I'm feeling about this situation, I'm different now." That way you can show them that you are working on things and hopefully they will be less likely make these same assumptions in the future.

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