Like a Sponge

Like a Sponge

image source Roman Pavlyuk


Can we talk emotions?  As in other people’s emotions, not ours.  Well, theirs first, then somehow, like a sponge…they are ours too?

The phone rang yesterday morning.  Special Person #1 called to talk and ask for prayers for Special Person #2 who they were worried about but who was also causing problems.  As they are both dear to me, I began feeling both their pain(s). I spent much of the rest of my busy day thinking about their complicated situation and looking into things that might help.  Today, things seem to have blown over. For them, I mean.  I, on the other hand, still feel like a wrung out dishcloth.

At dinner that night the kids seemed extra teen-girly (read: hormonal).  The usual “half-uncomfortable because people like to bicker” meal turned into full blown emotional pain and I had to quietly excuse myself early and start cleaning up.  Another drama moment and I would have lost my cool all over said teen girl(s).

So come the end of the night, one misguided look from The Captian (dh), who will deny to the hilt, as left-brained-Spock-like husbands do 🙂 , that whatever I read into that hateful look *was not there*, and my bucket spilled over and cracked.  I’m still feeling it this morning.

Do you feel like the bucket that other people pour their souls into so they can walk away feeling better, but you are left still holding that angst? What do you do with it?

Honestly, I am still working on this.

I am learning, slowly, ever so slowly, to cast my cares.  Because God is bigger than my Boogie Man.  But I have trouble doing that when so often it feels like I’m just screaming at the sky.  Ye of little faith, indeed.

I have heard that if you imagine yourself surrounded by a bubble of healing and protective light, it helps.

I have imagined myself cutting, with huge scissors, the invisible ropes that bind me to certain people who do not have my best interests at heart.  It’s supposedly a very serious energetic practice, though, if you believe in those things.  I’m not sure what I believe, although I know there is so much more to the reality of the world than what we can see or measure by today’s equipment, and that our words, thoughts, and actions have real effects on the material and spiritual world.

I have tried deep breathing, which is helpful in some ways, but my thoughts during that time are critical. I can’t be in any way thinking, “…grumble grumble…stupid situation that makes me deep breathe…this is stupid and not fair that I even have to do this…grumble grumble…”  Noooooo, that just makes it all worse and like I’m breathing in more bad feelings.  I need to dwell on whatever good I can, and imagine pretty scenes and happy rainbows, LOL.  Sometimes The Captain  will call out to me, “Happy Bunnies!” and it’s my cue to imagine a calming scene.

So far, my greatest efforts have been towards taking care of myself while still allowing people to tell me everything.   It lets me still be the sensitive, caring, generous (ahem) person I am and try to be, while not letting myself get sick from being The Holder of All People’s Bad Feelings.  I can take a lot if I know I’m being helpful, and can then go laugh myself silly at Whose Line is it Anyway for an hour without guilt, because I have to keep the balance of sanity level.

Elaine Aron, author of the book The Highly Sensitive Person, calls us the Royal Advisors.  To not allow people to tell me all their troubles negates this very real part of who I am.  I just need to learn better how to deal with it.

Maybe it’s my age, but I’m slowly learning that only I can tell what I need inside, and that especially for us introverted/sensitive/empathic/gifted, etceteras,  other people mostly don’t get it. So I have to be OK with that. OK with them thinking I’m lazy for playing Candy Crush for an hour after a bad phone call.  (I don’t recommend that…d**n frustrating little game, LOL).

OK especially with dropping the guilt, which totally ruins whatever regenerative feelings that hour might have gained for me.

Do you find yourself as the local emotional sponge?  Are you learning ways to cope?



8 thoughts on “Like a Sponge

  1. Yes, I can totally relate. I remember being in a very bad way with depression while at college, and still I had friends and family coming to me to unburden their problems. Later they were surprised that I was so sick and needed to take a leave of absence.

    It’s a tricky path. We are very empathetic, so when we hear of hurting, pain, loss, troubles, we bear them in our heart and we FEEL them deeply. Adding other burdens makes it really hard to be in the present moment with our family.

    A spiritual view of our personalities is we are those who really see and feel the connections with the Mystical Body of Christ.

    I’m no shining example, but my coping is really to put all the troubles right into Mary and Jesus’ hands. I feel strongly that any kind of these brought to my attention is an opportunity for me to pray. If thoughts come back in my mind, I redirect them again to God. It’s remembering His providential care. I can’t fix the problems, and I have to remember that. I’m merely someone along the way who can channel these concerns to God. I’m the interceptor who can redirect to the One who does solve the problems.

    1. That is great advice, Jenn. I wish I was better at doing it. Let me rephrase that, I *do* it, but I know my attitude about it is all wrong, and I think that may negate any help (in redirecting to God) I might have been. I say this only because of how things seem to go even more wrong every time I pray. So at the most now, I wind up sort of picturing the situation, calling God’s attention to it in my mind, and then turning my back without “saying” anything to God about it. Kind of like “here it is, You deal, I can’t watch, I’m asking for nothing”. Not thinking this is a holy way to deal with life, LOL. But if my specific prayers make things worse – if the person I’m praying for a release of pain gets MORE pain, for example, how can I go on praying?

      1. See, that’s what is the consoling thought. I’m glad I’m not God. He is in charge, and He knows best for what this person needs. I do often ask to take some of their suffering and let me bear it, or ask for them a spiritual consolation so they can handle this better.

        Suffering is not a bad thing, it’s how someone uses it. To direct it for good is the aim. All of us will have suffering. I’m not trying to be dismissive…it’s our personality that wants to take care of all pain and ease everyone’s burdens but we can’t. So understanding suffering is another aspect to this….it is a blessing from God. He is trying to bring us closer to Him, to need him, to realize that the spiritual life is more real and more important than anything here.

        It is that element of control that I’m handing over to God. Hard to do. I always recommend “I Believe in Love” but also Jacques Phillippes books are super awesome. “The Way of Trust and Love” I view as a short powerful version of the above mentioned book. And his “Search for peace” is in a similar vein and so helpful to me. I just pulled out all his books because my husband was asking for them, and I was thinking I need to retread, but that his little books really capture what it means to build your relationship and spiritual life in Christ.

        I hope I’m not coming across as preachy….this is exactly *my* spiritual journey and I’m just sharing it…but I’m still figuring and working it out, too.

        1. Not preachy at all – maybe difficult to hear, LOL, but very wise. I love I Believe In Love, BTW, guess I need to read it again.

  2. I am very happy that I found your blog–I feel better just reading this post! I, too, have five children, homeschool, follow Jesus (I’m Catholic), and am a HSP. According to the Brigg-Myers personality test, I am an INFJ:

    “INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.” While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type. ”

    Sound familiar? I thought I was coping fairly well with my high-sensitivity and introversion, but then a few years ago I developed several stress-related health problems. It turned out that carrying my loved ones’ emotional burdens was ruining my health.

    I privately called myself the “secret bearer”, because so many people came to me with their troubles. They told me, “You’re a great listener,” and “you’re the only person I trust with this.” For years, I convinced myself that this was God’s will for me–my purpose–, and that by being a kind and listening ear, I was participating in Christ’s work. After all, it helped them, didn’t it? After unloading their burdens, they felt better.

    But, it was making me sick and making my family unhappy. And, as you pointed out, relaxation techniques didn’t help much; thinking happy thoughts didn’t push out the bad ones, they just added to the thought-storm in my overactive, highly-sensitive brain that deprived me of sleep and robbed me of the energy I needed to care for my family and teach my children (which IS God’s will for me).

    It was through prayer that the Lord revealed that, really, my loved ones need to be talking to *Him* and trusting in *Him*–they had set me up in His place. Don’t get me wrong: it is a good thing for people to come to their brothers and sisters in Christ and ask for prayer! But it is a bad thing–for them and for their loved ones (whose privacy they are betraying)–when they share the details of their personal problems with me and want to know what I think about it all. (It is also a bad thing because being a “secret bearer” can become a source of pride. )

    I am still working on telling people I will pray for them, but that it is best for everyone if I don’t know every detail: “Let’s pray and trust God who knows our every need.” It’s hard, because people have been using me as their sounding board for a L O N G time, but it’s easier (and healthier) than carrying all of their emotional baggage around in my head.

    1. Welcome, Susan, and thank you for your beautiful and wise comment. There is so much here to talk about! I wonder if I’m even brave enough to stop people from telling me all their baggage. Half the time we are way into the “dump session” before I even realize it’s happening. And I had never thought of being a secret bearer as a source of pride – I’m pretty sure I am falling into that trap! It’s my “thing” .

      I’m still working on trusting God myself. Issues! 🙂

      Thanks again for visiting – I hope you come back! (I also hope to have some emotional energy to write again soon. It’s been too long!)

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