ACoAs & LISTENING (Part 1)

… I have to make them feel better!

PREVIOUS: Healthy Opposites #3

POSTS: How ACoAs Abandon Others

can be passive or active, but basically – the less said the better!
Wanting to be listened to is not always asked for directly. When someone starts talking & then keeps going & going – they want to be heard.

• The following 3 examples cover T.E.A. In each case, if the WIC or PP are the ones listening, then what we think are ‘helping’ responses will actually be our own narcissism – the compulsion to tell them what WE would do or say – but is actually NOT about the other person & so not useful. Don’t get in the way of someone else’s process!

LISTENING ‘situations’ 

1. (E) When someone wants you to listen to them, AND they’re having intense emotions (sadness, anger, fear…),

🔓AND you tell them they shouldn’t feel that way – “Don’t be upset”
💚OR automatically tell them how to fix their problem – “You can….”

👣👣 then you’re trampling on their right to feel & express their emotions without interference.
EXP: After my fire, when I told people how sad I was that both my cats were killed by the smoke, some people said: “Well then get new cats”!

ACoAs who react from their WIC to another person’s emotional expression will over-identify with their distress. Since we didn’t get the support as kids that we needed, we project that on to others, & decide (usually unawares) that we’ll never be like our parents – to leave someone in the lurch. We compulsively have to ‘help’.

PROBLEM with this WIC-logic (T)
When we were originally abandoned, we were very young! But the people we’re usually trying to rescue to now are adults who have many resources & capacities no child can possibly have. So they don’t need us the way we needed someone to soothe us when we were in pain as kids. (See posts: “Rescuing – False helping” and “Healthy Helping“)
ALSO, we’re not their parent, no matter how immaturely they may act!

🖤 Negating a person’s emotions or trying to make them ‘feel better’ wastes everyone’s time because,
• the listen-ee may just shut down & not be able to continue, OR
• they’ll waste a lot of energy convincing you how & why they feel that way
Rule #1 : YES, zip the lip!
OR if you can’t :  ASK them what they’re feeling – emotionally.
Don’t settle for HEAD answers. Ask what they’re feeling emotionally vs. what are they’re thinking. Anything more than one word (E) is a thought (T). (“Feelings Aren’t Facts”)

If they’re not sure, maybe you can help them identify the words, such as fear, self-hate, frustration OR excitement, joy, love… If you also aren’t clear about what they may be experiencing, be quiet.

• If you’re in the ‘mood’ to respond to their comments, always start by validating whatever emotions they can verbalize. It doesn’t mean that you identify with the feelings or the situation, nor is that necessary. You can say brief, comforting things like:

“Wow, that’s tough, I know what you mean, Sorry to hear that, I’ve been there too….”
Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 5.06.00 AM“Sound like you’re in a lot of pain, That must really make you angry. Ouch!”.

But, DO NOT assume you’re sure you know how someone feels. If they disagree with your opinion, drop it.

A POSSIBILITY – with their permission
If you know them well, have experienced something similar AND you feel like it – you could help them figure out what’s behind their big emotions: old beliefs, the WIC over-reacting, family patters, current similarity to childhood experiences….
Then if they’re willing & able to go deep, the solution to their problem may be obvious to them without any more help from you.

NEXT: ACoAs & Listening (Part 2)

One thought on “ACoAs & LISTENING (Part 1)

  1. Excellent Post!! I loved it. I always, always tried to fix people’s problems instead of really heating them. This helps me a lot.
    Thank you!


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