Quick Tips #13: How to stop absorbing feelings of others
Question: I have a question that stems from the first call-in session we did for the INFx program a couple of weeks ago. I had asked if me feeling depressed around my husband is a form of being a chameleon as he is depressed.
(It also happens when I walk into my Mum's after she's had a few days of panic/worry. She's pretending everything is fine but is giving off the frantic energy and I start feeling panicky or grumpy as soon as I walk into the house).
Merja, you had mentioned that it is not being a chameleon but absorbing the feelings around me. I totally get that but my question is "How do you realise you are absorbing someone else feelings and what can you do to stop it?"
That’s a great question. There are a couple of different aspects we can look at here.
One is the fact that you as an INFJ physiologically absorb other people’s emotions. INFPs have a similar issue, but it’s a little bit more inner harmony focused.
INFPs can mirror what the other person is feeling and then tap into how it would make them feel about that particular situation.
Even though the flavor of the issue for the both INF types is different, these same approaches work for both types:
How do you realise that you are absorbing someone else’s feelings?
Ask yourself is this authentically my emotion or does this belong to somebody else. With that question, your cellular memory will respond if it is your issue.
If you get a physiological, a visceral response to what the other person is feeling, it usually is your issue.
If you don’t get a physiological response it usually is somebody else’s thing. When it’s not your issue and you catch yourself absorbing the feelings of others, ask both of your inner children how are they feeling and what do they need right now. Take away the other person and their feelings. If you can’t actually remove yourself physically from the situation, put them somewhere else in your mind and just attend to your own feelings and your needs first.
It’s good to keep in mind that when spending time with a depressed person, you will start feeling depressed yourself. It’s the same with anger, worry, panic and other emotions. We do get it from other people around us.
How to stop absorbing other’s feelings?
Teach yourself not to enter that state to begin with. Here are some strategic tools to try:
Pre-pave the situation
Pre-paving is something where you set an intention ahead of time on something that’s about to happen. When setting the intent or pre-paving the situation ahead of time, the person who goes into those meetings with the biggest or strongest intent, tends to invite the others to mimic their behaviour.
For example: When you visit a depressed or stressed person, you set an intent in this particular segment of your day. You decide you are going to stay calm and collected, and you tell yourself that you are going to see if there’s something that you can actually help the person with, rather than just be there at the receiving end of those negative emotions. Practice this by saying it out loud a few times before entering that situation.
The interaction Visualise
Visualising can be a powerful tool and a worthy exercise to do when meeting people in challenging situations.
For Example: Before you interact with your mother, visualise her being as well as she can be in herself. Visualise her having what she would want in her life. Be careful not to imagine what you want her to have, but what she actually desires.
When you go into these situations from a good place and you anticipate that the other person will be in a good place or you are at least invite them to be in a better place than where they are, they do actually start to move in that direction.
Patience is the key here. Emotions are like a freight train. You can’t stop the negative emotion train going a 100 miles an hour with one go. When you pull the hand break, it takes some time until the train comes to a halt. But when it does, the person who is driving the train can choose another direction and start moving towards that slowly.
Give yourself and others time and patience. Don’t give up after trying it once or twice. It takes at least 3 months before you can expect to have any kind of specific responses and you might need to continue doing it even for a year.
Long term strategy: Go into challenging situations with an intent, visualise the other person being happy and have patience with yourself and others.
Short term strategy: Ask yourself what your feelings and needs are right now. Ask those questions every single time. And then, have the same amount of patience for soothing your inner children as you would for the other person’s change.
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