Setting Boundaries About Emotional Dumping With Your Loved Ones
What Is Emotional Dumping?
We’ve all been there: you’re minding your own business when you receive a text, phone call, or (god-forbid) FaceTime call from that one friend or family member. You already know how this is going to play out: they’ll undoubtedly have some personal issue they’ll feel the need to take out on you. They’ll rant and rave, refusing to listen to or accept any advice you try to offer. Why do these things always happen to me? They’ll ask (rhetorically, of course). The one-sided conversation will go on far longer than necessary and end with zero resolutions to the situation. Afterward, you’ll feel like you’ve just run a 10K through a wasteland of potholes and dumpster fires, only to not be given any recognition for it at the end. Welcome to emotional dumping.
To maintain a healthy, functional relationship with anyone, clear communication is necessary. However, that line gets crossed when communication turns sharing or relating emotions into using another person as an emotional dumping ground.
Emotional dumping is the act of aggressively taking out one’s negative emotions on someone else with little to no regard for the other person’s feelings or overall well-being. People often do this to avoid being accountable for their actions. In turn, the situation never changes and they find themselves constantly harping on the same subject, trying to find something or someone new to blame their problems on.
Emotional Dumping Vs. Venting
Though they may have similarities, emotional dumping is not to be confused with a healthy venting session. Three key factors that help to differentiate venting and emotional dumping are:
Intention and Consideration
People who emotionally dump typically don’t consider how their words may affect the listener. On the other hand, someone who is venting will ask for advice, listen, and, most importantly, show gratitude. If the verbal tirade goes on and on with no foreseeable end or resolution, it’s gone well past the point of venting.
Accountability (or lack thereof)
Whether or not someone is willing to take accountability is a major key. Someone who is venting will admit their faults and acknowledge the mistakes they may have made that lead to the situation at hand. In an emotional dump, the person will play the victim and demonize everyone around them except themselves. This is a toxic, non-progressive outlook that will make positive change difficult.
The Emotional Toll
Arguably, the most important factor to take into account is how you feel before, during, and after the conversation takes place. A healthy venting session will make both individuals feel a sense of relief and mutual support. An emotional dump will leave you feeling spent, unappreciated, and used.
Bottom line: venting is a normal, healthy part of any close relationship, while emotional dumping has toxic effects. It’s important to learn how to set boundaries between you and those who emotionally dump.
Why Setting Boundaries Is Healthy + Necessary For You
Your life is yours and yours alone. The time and energy that you choose to bless others with are precious, and no one should feel entitled to them. Imagine if every weekend someone barged into your home, dumped trash in every room, then left with no apology. Even if you love this person dearly, you would eventually get tired of having their trash in your house. Not to mention, constantly having to clean it up and anticipate it happening again is ultimately going to take a toll on your mental (and possibly physical) health.
Some of the key benefits of setting boundaries between you and an emotional dumper include:
Peace of Mind
It’s a well-known fact that stress wreaks absolute havoc on the mind and body. Why double your stress by allowing someone else’s negative energy into your space? The benefits of decreasing stress of any type include better sleep, improved mood, weight loss, and a stronger immune system.
As Confucius once said: “Respect yourself and others will respect you.” Creating boundaries to protect our well-being is a form of self-love and respect. You will feel empowered knowing you’ve chosen to honor your own highest and greatest good.
A Legit Support System
Sometimes setting boundaries helps us weed out the people we can trust in our times of need. Someone who can’t see past themselves is in no position to be there for someone else. Take note of those who respect your time and energy. They’ll be the ones to call.
How To Set Boundaries About Emotional Dumping With Your Loved Ones
Being open and honest is always the best solution to any problem. Explain to your loved one how their emotional tirades affect your own emotions. If the other person never lets you have any input, bring that to their attention. If they often scoff at the advice you offer, remind them of that. As simple and silly as it may seem, some people need to be reminded that other people also have thoughts and feelings. Make it clear that you will no longer be used as an emotional dumping ground. If this person truly cares about you, they will take their actions into serious consideration.
No Unsolicited Calls or Texts
Some people just can’t help themselves. The minute things start to go left, they grab their phone, dial your number, and complain. If you’ve already explained to this person how their emotional dumping makes you feel, and they still feel the need to call and text you with their drama, stop answering. Let that phone call go to voicemail. Let that paragraph-long text sit in your messages until you feel mentally prepared to take it on, or simply don’t read it. While this may upset the other person more, their problems don’t begin or end with you. Yours do.
Stop Trying To Play Therapist
Setting boundaries is much more difficult when dealing with someone you love. Of course, you care about them. Of course, you want them to know you’re always there for them. But, most importantly of all, you need to be there for yourself first. You are not a therapist, a journal, or a video camera. You shouldn’t be expected to sit and listen to someone else’s problems without any consideration for your own emotions. The only way for you to be there for anyone (including yourself) when serious problems arise, is if you begin taking care of your mental hygiene now.
Make Your Exit
In extreme cases where all other efforts fail, it may be time to step away from the relationship. Allow the other person to realize the faults in their actions. Possibly even suggest alternative methods such as professional talk therapy, journaling, or stress-relieving physical activities. Give them their space. Remember, the point of setting boundaries isn’t about hurting others, it’s about helping yourself.
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