My dad’s a psychiatrist, my mum’s a nurse. It shows. I’m really good at taking care of other people, analyzing their problems and coming with constructive advice. I’ve frequently been told I should be a therapist. Which is what I am, informally, in my circle of friends. With several of these people, I’m stuck in a relationship that consists of them talking and me listening.
I know what I’m doing wrong. I’m not setting proper boundaries and I’m not telling people to shut up and listen to me for once. I’m not saying “no” nearly enough. As soon as someone mentions that they’re not feeling well, I’m possessed by the spirit of the Therapist, who starts listening and solving problems. The worst bit is that I don’t even realize I’m doing it until it’s over, the friend’s gone, and I’m left feeling angry and used.
Right now I’d really like someone to talk to myself, but since I’m so used to the situation being the reverse, it feels like no-one’s interested in what I have to say. They’re just waiting for me to stop talking, so they can continue their monologue.
I’m my own culprit by repeating this pattern, and I’m turning other people into culprits by not telling them that I don’t want to listen right now. I’d give myself the advice to start saying no, firmly but gently. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it’s the most difficult thing ever. In my family, you don’t say no to people in need. Social conditioning is a bitch.
I’ve heard the same monologue from people I’ve met who are children of healthcare personnel, social workers and psychologists. Someone told me that people with parents in caregiving professions are more prone to depression, burnout and psychosomatic disease. I haven’t seen any studies to support it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.
Thanks for listening. Now I’m off to practice telling people no, firmly but gently.