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"We already Talked About That"

Written in 2007 - S. Hein


The other day I started chatting with someone. I was feeling very depressed. They said "How are you," but I didn't want to tell them. I said I just wanted to see if they were ok. I explained that I was afraid they would later say that I just use them, and don't care about them or ask how they feel. I am somewhat guilty of that, I suppose, so I am sensitive to it now. And this person, who I will call Nadia, recently accused me of using people - in other words just writing to people when I need them and not asking them how they feel and not spending as much time with them as I used to. And she also told me she herself felt used by me, if I remember correctly.

So when I told Nadia that I was afraid she would later say that I just talk about myself and my problems, she said "I thought we had already talked about that."

I have been thinking about her response a lot. I have been wondering whether to call it invalidation. If it is invalidation it is very subtle. And that is probably the most confusing kind of invalidation. It is the kind which leaves you wondering "What just happened? Did I do something wrong? Did I say something wrong? Am I wrong? Am I wrong to feel the way I feel? Am I wrong to feel afraid of what I feel afraid of?" Does the other person think I shouldn't feel the way I do? And if they think I shouldn't feel the way I feel or that I have no reason to feel that way since they think "we already talked about it" then what do I do?"

But all this happened so fast. And now it is two days later and I am still thinking about it. And I am also thinking that some people will accuse me of thinking too much. But I don't think I think too much. I think they think too little! But more seriously, I don't think I think too much because the suicidal teenagers I talk to also think a lot. And they are often told by their parents or even people their age they might call friends, that they think too much. But I don't believe they think too much. I think they are invalidated too often.

But getting back to Nadia....I also ask myself, "How was Nadia feeling when she said what she did?"

I still am trying to figure that out. I am afraid that if I just ask her directly how she was feeling when she said that she will say "I donīt know." So that would not be of much help to me.

Thus I am left to speculate. Or to try to figure out what I need and whether my needs are being met in the relationship. Nadia is a person I care about but I lately I have begun to realize that it is possible to care about someone and even love them, but have conflicts over needs. One person might need one thing and the other not be able to give that specific thing, even if they care about the other person.

I am not sure what Nadia needs. I hope that one day Nadia will be able to tell me or someone else. Or even just to figure it out for herself.

One of the things I wrote a long time ago is that our feelings help us identify our unmet emotional needs. If I don't feel understood, it means I have an unmet need to feel understood. If I feel neglected or ignored it means I have a need for more attention, etc.

In my case I can think of two of my unmet emotional needs: the need to feel appreciated and the need to feel understood.

This gets back to Nadia.

When Nadia said "I thought we already talked about that" I didn't feel understood. I am still not sure if it is fair to say I felt invalidated, but I definitely didn't feel understood.. and feeling understood is one of my big unmet emotional needs. I also need to feel appreciated and I don't feel very appreciated by Nadia. I feel cared about by her, but not understood or appreciated.

I care about Nadia. I want to help her and I'm not sure how. I also want her to help me but lately we havenīt been helping each other much. Sometimes I feel resented by her in fact. Sometimes I feel judged. Sometimes I feel attacked- And these feelings are holding me back from doing what I want to do with my life. I want to do more with my life than I have already. I feel a little pressured because I will be 50 this year. That sounds old to me. Very old. It sounds like a number which is close to death.

I think of the song that says something like "There is never enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them." I want to do a lot of things before I die. Or before I kill myself. I don't want to just die of old age or in a hospital so though it might sound dramatic to say "before I kill myself" I don't mean I am planning on it anytime soon, though I have been feeling suicidal a lot this past week or two.

Right now I am living in Argentina now and I want to stay here longer. There are a lot of things I like about it here, but a lot of things I don't like. There are a lot of things I want to change. And to change things I need support. I need emotional support for example. I need people who believe in me and my ideas and who encourage me to keep doing what I do and to help me do it better. People are important to me. Relationships are important to me. And I believe they are important to all of us who are what I call emotionally intelligent.

My motivation level depends to a very large degree on the emotional support I get. When I feel supported, I feel motivated and energized. When I feel attacked, criticized, untrusted, not believed in, judged, labeled, etc. I feel depressed. I often feel suicidal in fact. But one person's understanding, one person's caring, one person taking the time to listen to me and not debate with me about my feelings or perceptions, can lift my spirits, change my entire mood.

I would like to be more "emotionally stable", but I am not. I might as well say I would like to be taller, though that is of course a bit of an exaggeration. But only a bit, because one can't just wish for emotional stability. It's not that easy. I know a lot of theory. I have read a lot of books on motivation etc, but when I feel lonely not much of that helps. What helps is to be with someone, and even better to hug them.

Anyhow, I still don't know if what Nadia said qualifies as invalidation, but I am going to put this story on my invalidation page, and maybe my understanding page. And maybe on my listening page, because it is an example of what I would say is not being a good listener.

I feel sad to even say that, because if Nadia reads this then she will probably feel hurt, maybe she will feel defensive. Maybe she will feel resentful or hurtful towards me. I hope that in any case she can identify her feelings. For me, for example, I recently realized how important it is for me to realize when I am feeling hurtful, because if I think about it that way I realize I don't want to people - especially those I care about, need or want to be a part of my life..

S. Hein
March 28, 2007
Salta, Argentina

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