Navigating Emotional Labor as an Empath
Human beings go through a huge range of emotions and experiences on a daily basis. There are many times where we all feel like we desperately need advice, or to vent and get all of the thoughts in our head out, which is an important part of navigating these emotions. Despite our attempts to communicate our emotions, how often do we really take other people's advice? How often do we actually listen to people instead of just brush off what they say and go do it "our way"? Unfortunately, the latter happens way more often than people actually listening and I'm here to explain why.
We all have those people in our lives who always just to need to unload and lay all of their problems right out on the table. In fact, we are all probably guilty of complaining too much at one time or another, without any warning, and with the way that society has shaped our brains, not complaining all the time is a hard skill for some people to master. It is and has been for me as well. Just think about all those times you've spent hours talking on the phone with someone, but then you realize that you've barely gotten a word in and now you're late for something else you needed to do, just to have that person turn around and do exactly what they talked about not doing for two hours. After all thats what friends are for right? We are supposed to let someone talk to us about the same thing a million times, knowing that they won't listen to anything we have to say, knowing that they're going to do the complete opposite of what they should do, just to have the same conversation again in a few days. Unfortunately, it's not only close friends that do this, but people you just run into in your daily life. It's plain to see that this directly ties into the emotional labor we all expect from each other on a daily basis. If it sounds exhausting, that's probably because it is. We are sucking each other’s energy dry, which isn't good for ourselves or the planet, and moves us away from living in a higher vibration, abandoning our higher selves.
Now, I want everyone to keep in mind that I am in no way saying that people shouldn't ask for advice or help when they need it. You definitely should do that, but it's all about finding balance. It's all about getting in touch with yourself and deciphering how you really feel so you don't end up wasting other people's time, or your own, and not concentrating on negative energy. The truth is that, people don't need advice in the way they think they do and that’s why a lot of the time people don't end up listening to anyone else but themselves. Here are some specific reasons as to why someone may not take your advice, even when they go out of their way to ask for it, and some simple solutions to try to help people better balance emotions:
- Processing. They are not ready to hear the truth. This could be a situation where the person knows what’s wrong, knows that a change needs to happen, but isn't ready for it yet. They won't take your advice because they know what they need to do, but they also know deep down that they're not going to do it. Once you start paying attention, it's astonishing to see just how many people would rather lie to themselves and others, stay in denial in unhealthy situations and thought patterns, and then expect you to just go along with it and act like it's normal.
- Validation. A lot of the times, people really just want to feel validated in their emotions and their reactions to certain situations. This would be a situation where the person has no clue that there is anything wrong and is still trying to convince themselves that whatever unhealthy pattern they are caught in is still good for them. This would be a situation where the person truly only wants to hear what they want, they don't actually want your opinion, and if you try to offer them any advice, they will come up with every excuse in the book as to why they're right and totally not be open to anything you have to say, even if they bring something up to you and ask for your advice, as I mentioned before.
- Emotional Expression. They just need to vent. Sometimes people have moments of frustration and when they're venting, they're still trying to figure out how they even feel about whatever it is that just happened. So while they're still trying to figure it out, this is the type of situation where you might not get a word in edge wise. It will come just as quickly as it leaves. You'll feel like a huge gust of wind just went by that messes up your hair and blows $20 right out of your hand, and then you're just standing there, not quite sure how that just happened, and sometimes it can ruin your whole day.
Now that I've laid out some examples of why people might not listen to advice, you know that you find yourself in these kinds of situations every day. People do these things all the time, including ourselves, and especially writing this as a highly empathic person, it can really start to take a toll. Whether it's my friends, or complete strangers that come up to me on the street, who tell me their whole life story and all of their personal problems. It's very draining especially when it's unexpected and I'm sure many other people feel this way, but might not be sure how to say it.
Going back to the first scenario I used, about being late because you listened to someone talk for way too long on the phone, is what you would define as emotional labor. There are many other examples and situations of emotional labor, but it's basically when other people just want to put their problems on someone else and not be considerate or aware of the other persons time or opinion. In that situation you missed out on something because of someone else not being considerate or aware. There have honestly been times where I've been on the phone with people and tell them that I have to go two to three times before they actually end the conversation. It's at this point that we all need to be more self aware and make sure we are not getting wrapped up in ourselves to the point where we don't even take in what other people are saying. Generally people want to put their problems on other people so they can feel relief. It's not bad to want to feel relief from unpleasant emotions, but this brings up my next point in how we need to be more mindful, get in touch with our emotions and release them in a healthy way, be honest with ourselves so we don't keep dwelling in unhealthy situations, and so we don't drag other people there with us. It's all about being very specific and knowing how you truly feel.
- Listen to Your Body. Get used to the idea of deciphering how your body feels and how you truly feel about any given situation without any outside influences. The can be an interesting concept for people to try to understand because so much of the time we are told to rely on our minds, but what you truly need to do is start to notice how things actually make you feel in your body. Does it make you feel excited? Anxious? Once you know that, it will give your mind all of the answers. If you still feel like you need to talk to someone, you will at least have a better understanding of how you truly feel inside and can express yourself in a calmer way.
- Meditate. Meditation, healing your energy. One way that you can start to get in touch with how your body feels is to meditate. Meditation allows you to go to a deeper place within yourself and truly lets you observe what's going on inside. You'll start to learn so many things about yourself and why you feel the way you do about, anything really. It will help you learn how to observe your emotions and it will allow you to have much quicker access to your emotions. If you're not sure how, you can look up all kinds of guided meditations on YouTube!
- Be Honest. Honesty is the best policy. Yet in our society, it doesn't always seem that way. It actually seems like evading the truth is much more important than honesty, and there are some great historical examples of that which have happened in very recent times. We have ourselves caught in a vicious cycle to the point where people are actually scared of hearing the truth, telling the truth, and refuse to see things from others perspectives. Again, we all participate in this. We all really need to let the phrase be true, that honesty is the best policy and live it. We need to get used to the idea of people actually telling the truth. This is where deciding if you should ask someone for advice or not comes into play, and the above two points also tie into this. If we get in touch with our bodies and know how we really feel, we need to decide if we are really open to hearing the truth. Decide whether you're actually open to what someone has to say, decide whether its really the best time for you to talk about it, figure out if you're still trying to process your emotions. Just be honest with yourself. I've also been in multiple situations where someone has told me "you could have just said okay" and clearly didn't really want my opinion, after they asked me for advice or brought something up to me. “You could have just said okay”, or any other sentence where people tell you what you should have said, is another form of emotional labor and other people limiting your self-expression. This is why it's so important to figure out what we really need and be honest, when we don't we just waste time.
- Communicate. If you come to the conclusion that you just need to vent and someone to listen, then tell them that. Simply say "hey I really need someone to talk to and I just need for you to listen, is that okay?" so the person knows that you probably really don't want to hear their opinion. When people come to you seeking advice or to vent, most of the time people do want to help. I once had someone I didn't know start talking to me out of nowhere and when I tried to offer some advice on what might help them they shouted at me and said they didn't need for anyone to fix them, which again is another form of emotional labor. How was I supposed to know that if they didn't say it? This is another example why we need to know how we feel and try to communicate it clearly. Just say you need someone to listen.
- Set Boundaries. We should all set boundaries for ourselves in these situations whether we are asking for advice or listening. If we are asking, we need to be mindful of the other person. If we are the person giving advice or listening to someone vent, maybe we need to set a time limit on that. Especially when someone tells you they need to vent, you can say "alright, but I only have "x" amount of time and then we can talk about something else" or "I have to go"", especially if you need to do something. If they are still talking when you need to go, you need to assert yourself. Also, if you are listening you can ask "do you want my honest opinion?" Asking these simple questions and setting boundaries can really aid in avoiding miscommunication and frustration.
Remember these points the next time you are frustrated and need advice, or if you’re the one listening. Remember that all you need to do is be honest with yourself and then try to communicate that in the best, most effective way possible. Honesty and love are truly what will set us free. If everyone could get on board with this, think about how much better the world would be.