I see a ton of people who struggle with feeling responsible for other’s emotions is they come in struggling with depression, anxiety, guilt, or overwhelm, or all of these.
And time and time again, I discover they grew up with a parent who trained them to feel responsible for the parent’s emotions.
The training shows up in comments like “You make me feel like…” and others.
This isn’t truth; it’s control. And it comes from toxic parts of that person’s Root System.
As children, we get nearly all of our self-worth from our parents, which compounds their influence on us.
Until we’re taught about Root System, we (especially as children) don’t stop and think, “Why is my parent influencing me to feel responsible for them? Why are they guilting me? Oh yeah! It’s because they have a Root System! Ah ha! Well, I won’t allow them to impact me this way now.”
That kind of thinking simply doesn’t exist, so we allow the influence in, and it shapes the way we think and responds to other people in our life years down the road.
This can lead to anxiety and depression that’s paralyzing. The truth is you are not responsible for others’ emotions.
Here are 5 steps to stop feeling responsible for others’ emotions.
1. Stop seeking self-worth from people
Part of feeling responsible for others’ emotions is seeking self-worth from people. If you weren’t getting any self-worth from them, you wouldn’t be negatively impacted by guilt, feeling selfish if you don’t help, or their attempt to control you.
Imagine being in a place emotionally where their attempt to control or guilt you had no effect.
Where your self-worth comes from is key to getting to that place. My vote is always to get your self-worth from God. He’s the only worth-well that’s constantly full.
2. Learn to recognize toxic behavior
When you’re able to see someone’s attempt to control or guilt you, you can work to not allow it to impact you.
3. Put a healthy boundary in place
Healthy boundaries are boundaries another person can’t crash over. The goal of a healthy boundary is to protect you from toxicity.
This step is usually the hardest to put in place because you have to, as we say, “go against your Root System”, and overcome your training to fear conflict, feel guilty or selfish, or feel like you’re hurting the other person by putting a healthy boundary in place. But it’s an essential step.
4. Stop trying to help them
This usually shows up in giving them advice and “fixes”. You may have noticed your well-intentioned advice isn’t taken, and the actions you take to help them are never enough.
And you’re left feeling confused, frustrated, and feeling horrible about yourself.
That’s because the person who struggles with control doesn’t truly want your advice or help, or for you to solve their problem.
Instead, part of your healthy boundary is to listen, ask questions, and not offer advice. If they want to change or solve it, let them own that and do the work.
5. Remember your emotional health matters, too
It’s easy in relationships, especially with people who influence you to feel responsible for their emotions and to prioritize their well-being above your own.
When you factor in everything you’ve read above, I hope you see that’s an endless self-sabotaging cycle, and you will end up worse off.
If you have, you know the struggle of figuring out how to help them, if you even should help, and fear of guilt or feeling selfish if you don’t help, and the weight of taking on their emotions.
All of these responses come from your Root System.
⇒ The way to think about Root System is that you are the sum of what’s happened in your past and the influence you’ve allowed in.
⇒ We go super deep into this in 1-on-1 Next-Level Life Events to help you understand how and why you respond and make the choices you make.