I am not asking for sympathy in this post, simply explaining a weakness within my own character and my determination to deal with it!
Since childhood, I have been a listener – and a good one at that. From my earliest years, people told me I should train to be a counsellor, and friends – later children at school and even colleagues – have always confided in me, often sharing deep and dark secrets.
Long before I actually gave birth, I was a mother-figure, to children in my various tutor groups, to other adults, to other people’s offspring.
But, my boundaries – in this and so much else – have always been weak and easily blown away by another’s storm of emotion. Because I am empathetic, and thus able to feel another’s pain, I find it almost impossible to say, ‘No!’ or to close the door of my heart upon another in difficulty.
It can be draining, however. I have a tendency to put myself to one side in order to help someone else – and, from this, cracks in my own being can appear without my really noticing them until it is too late, until I have gone into meltdown, until I am so tired and sad and, if I am honest, sometimes exasperated, that all the gentle cosseting I have been giving myself ceases to do any good.
Such a moment of crisis has erupted quite suddenly – though I can trace the signs back to the start of this briar-strewn path. The details are irrelevant, and confidential. It is the way I handle such things that is up for analysis today – and I have to ask myself some difficult and painful questions: Do I get some kind of ego-boost out of being a kind of Caped Crusader, Earth Mother figure in the lives of certain others? Does it make me feel good, better, best (!) when I am perceived to be an excellent listener and a kind, maternal person? Am I doing these things for the unhappy other or for myself?
Much to think about on that front – far too much for an off-the-cuff post, in fact; but I will, once again, reiterate my ongoing fight to strengthen my own boundaries after so many years of being punished emotionally for saying, ‘No…’ I know this is a weakness. I am aware that others sense it without quite being able to pin down what it is. In my imagination, the boundaries around my home and heart and mind and spirit are like rotten fence posts, worn by years of bad weather and gaping in many places. I shall have to strengthen them, on the Inner, once more.
But it is more than that. I shall have to have a really good look at why I am so disastrously open in the first place. Why I cannot, it seems, erect healthy walls between myself and others so that, when the need arises, I can shut myself out of sight and rest, recuperate, cry, heal.
Many people tell me that I am a radiator. I can see that side of myself at times – and it is good! But radiators can easily be drained, and they are not always wise enough, or sufficiently aware, to notice that their precious ‘fluid’ is being sucked out – and only realise when they are running on empty and in danger of engine failure!
I have always been a listener. Now I need to learn to trust others to listen to me. Now, I need to learn to stopper up my ears when I am weakened and exhausted. Now I need to realise that putting self first is not always a Narcissistic act or from a selfish motive. Sometimes, switching other people off is absolutely essential.