Here’s some free advice we’re happy to mete out to you: stop being an emotional janitor or dumpster.
As you form relationships with people, you’ll find yourself leaning on them for all sorts of things such as comfort, advice, entertainment etc.
However, you are bound to meet people who will demand more and more from you, until you cannot give anymore, or don’t have anything to offer to their cause. Of course, friendship itself demands that some effort be made to keep both and/or all parties content but you have to ask yourself:
Where to draw the line?
Have you become more than a friend to someone?
Have they forced you into a relationship you’re not ready for or willing to uphold?
If you feel as if there’s a deep, dark pit of dread settling into your stomach at these questions, you’ll probably be answering the next question in affirmative:
Are you their shrink?
The question is posed with no disrespect toward psychologists or psychiatrists who are hard-working, empathizing and necessary part of the world. The question is meant solely for whoever has been coerced into acting as their friend’s psychologist, and that too without pay.
Going back to our advice, let’s explain the difference between the emotional janitor and the emotional dumpster.
The emotional dumpsters are the individuals whose friends or peers reach out to them only when they wish to dump all of their emotional baggage someplace. These individuals are often unsuspecting and have mastered the art of active listening and sympathy. Usually, this is where the path ends for most people.
The emotional janitors on the other hand, do not simply stop at the sympathetic part of the equation, oh no. They have to solve the entire equation. They will offer advice, solutions, lists, doomsday plans and refuge, and emerge the hero who has solved the difficult challenge. Such individuals are aware of being the emotional dumpsters but not necessarily the janitors. So, an emotional dumpster may not be an emotional janitor, but the latter is usually the former.
We know it feels good, being depended upon and providing solutions to the unknown secrets of the world, and being a hero.
Other times, such individuals feel as if their friendships are built on the basis of free therapy and counseling sessions. They feel insignificant, used, and exhausted by the baggage that is tossed at them at random and sometimes planned intervals. They feel useless when they cannot come up with rational and practical solutions and supposedly let down or disappoint their friends.
Here’s more advice: stop being the hero. Especially to people who really are using you, and even more for those who don’t, yet you’re still insecure about their part in your life. By acting a shrink to people, you often throw cold, hard, facts at them when all they might need is an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry upon.
Take suicidal people for instance, they are not begging you to calm them down or asking for help at least, not most of the time, and it’s only us who assume they need therapy. They will obviously ask for comfort and that means they trust you enough to involve you, so you can stop thinking about trying to be the perfect friend.
It is only after they’ve calmed themselves down, can you give advice that is only meant for what can be changed. If they are unable to get up and do whatever makes them feel better and you’re unaware of what to do because of their unwillingness to try, just remind them that it’s completely okay to do things halfheartedly.
As for the dumpsters and janitors themselves,
don’t let that anxiety level hit the roof. Don’t overexert yourself because everyone has a limit, and you’re about to drain your emotional tank.
However, don’t forget to empathize and just be a friend.