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When people dump their emotions on you || Acharya Prashant, Vedanta Mahotsav (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
12 min
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Questioner (Q): When I’m having conversations with my friends and family members, especially in situations when they are complaining about something, about a situation which has happened to them. I try to help them understand and see the issue clearly, but from my understanding of the concept, but they don't accept it at that time, and they even say that “I’m not asking for any solutions, I just want to be listened to. We're not looking for any solutions.” I feel it's not acceptable to me. I feel it's a wrong thing to do. I feel it is not a good habit to dump your emotions onto a person.

So, people feel more comfortable with a shoulder to cry on than a helping hand. I just want to understand the psychology behind this and how should I approach such situations, especially with our close ones.

Acharya Prashant (AP): The question is about when friends and family members, they come, and they vent out their emotional garbage, right in your face. And when you listen to that and want to offer a solution, they say it is not a solution that they seek, they just want to be heard.

“Listen to us and that's all that we want. Don't offer us advice.”

And he's saying he does not like this thing. He does not like to become a dump yard of superfluous emotions.

See what is happening here. The one who is coming to share his or her emotions… happens more with women. This is more of a characteristic with women, happens with men as well, however. The person who is displaying such behaviour does not actually want to change. What to do then? Listen to that person, if your listening opens up his or her listening; if and only if. “You have come to me, you want a shoulder to cry on. Fine, I’ll offer mine. Take the shoulder try as much as you want to, but now that I have listened to you, I want you to listen to me.”

If such reciprocity can be there, then it's alright to listen to such a person because that will afford you the opportunity to speak. However, if such a person wants to have a one-way thing—'I’ll come, I’ll dump and I’ll walk away’—then you are being used as a waste basket. No point in turning yourself into that kind of wastebin. You are doing no good to that person either. You are only reinforcing the sense of victimization that the person is carrying mostly erroneously. That fellow says, “You know, I’m a victim and I have been treated unfairly by this, by that and so, I’ve come over to you and I’m sharing what I have to.”

Now, when you listen to such a thing, you are actually becoming a passive participant in all the mischief that this person is knowingly or unknowingly playing. What is the mischief? The mischief is to paint oneself as a victim and the entire world as the culprit. “I am someone, who is always hard done by; I am the good one; I am the great one and all those around me are exploitative, cruel in this way and that way. And you, since you are my friend or my relative or my lover, you will have to listen to me, you have to partake in my nonsense. You don't have to say anything because, I know, if you say something, then my mischief might be exposed. So, I don't want you to say anything. I want you to only absorb all the rubbish I’m throwing at you.”

Now you're not merely being a silent absorber here. I’m saying you are becoming a passive participant, in this harmful process. So, tell that person, “If you are sharing these things with me, then allow me to have a say. I’m a well-wisher and you, too, know that. That's the reason you are sharing these things with me and if I’m a well-wisher, allow me to express myself and if you say you do not want a solution then why do you want to make your problem my problem? Either say you have no problem and if you don't have a problem then you must not cry this much. Either say that you don't have a problem and if you don't have a problem, why are you sulking and weeping and if you say there is a problem then let's come to a solution.”

This kind of a state, where you say that a problem exists and yet a solution is not needed, is simply hilariously nonsensical. ‘A problem exists but I don't need a solution,’ that merely means that you have a stake in letting the problem stay alive. Don't you see that? If you say, ‘Yes, indeed, there is a problem, but a solution is not needed,’ then it means that the continuation of the problem is vital to some of your interests. You deliberately want the problem to remain. Then you are a big mischief maker. You have a stake in the problem. Not only do you have a stake in the problem, you actually want your problem to extend to me. You want me to become a participant in this network of problems. You're sucking me in and you're not allowing me to exercise my right to offer or create a solution. You're saying, ‘You tie your hands and be led by me into this labyrinth of problems.’”

Don't allow yourself to be exploited this way.

Listening to a suffering person is an act of compassion, definitely. But only if the sufferer is, first of all, desirous of freedom from suffering. Then you should, in fact, go out of your way to offer your time, your ears, your energy to the sufferer. You say ‘Please come, speak and let's see what we can do about it.’

But if the sufferer is actually playing games, if the sufferer is actually playing a waging rather a psychological battle, then there is no point playing on with him or her.

This is a very common tendency. So, many of us have this. Let's please avoid it. If you have a problem that you can solve all by yourself, then don't disturb others.

If you are in a situation, you don't even want to call as a problem, again, don't disturb others. And if you do go to others to share your problem, then give others the right to offer a solution.

Otherwise, why have you wasted their time, why have you spoiled their mood, why have you made your problem their problem? The preferable thing is that as an adult, your first priority should be to tackle your problems all by yourself. Don't be a crybaby, don't rush to others for every small thing. Tackle them by yourself and if you find that you cannot, ask for some help. And all of us do come to that state, at some point or another, where we all need help and there is no shame in that.

But, when you do go to others to seek help, then please do humbly accept the help. Don't impose your conditions on the helper. Don't say, ‘You'll have to help me as per the constraints I impose upon the help.’ No, if you know so much, then you should help yourself on your own. When you go to share your situation or seek help, then have the humility to listen and accept.

Do you see, this is the reason why scriptures and teachers fail on most people? Even if we go to the scriptures, we say ‘I will accept you conditionally. You are telling something to me, I’ll take it, but only as much as I think is suitable to my ego and only when I think I need it. Also, in the form that I deem suitable.’ Now, if these are the tight constraints you put on the helper, then you will never be helped. Allow the helper to help you. But before that, try your best to be helped on your own.

Q: Acharya Ji, what if that person also wants to get the help, but he or she thinks they're not ready to accept it even though they know that they are in trouble?

AP: See, that's the situation of the entire mankind. We all know that we need help, but help does not come for free. Help does not come in a way convenient to us. Help would always require that the helped one make a lot of concessions. Change himself, adjust himself to become receptive to help, and that's why even though we need help we don't actually accept it. Even when it is there to be taken.

Accepting help is a tough ask. You are overweight, you want help, you go to a coach. Now, the coach won't run the treadmill for you, or would he? The coach is now helping you by bringing you to the treadmill, setting you the targets; the speed, the inclination and other things. He's offering his help, but to take this help, you will have to pass through some pain. We do not want to pass through the pain of accepting help. Then we will turn to the coach and say, ‘Can there be a more painless way, please?’

Now, there cannot be a painless way. That's the problem. What makes it worse is the more overweight you are, the more difficult it is to lose weight. Which means the more you need help, the more difficult it becomes for you to accept help. Now see, the more you need help, the more difficult it becomes for you to accept help. Because accepting help would mean accepting pain. Who wants to accept pain?

And there are a lot of shopkeepers who know that. So, they'll say, “Come to us, we are offering you painless help,” and we have such shops galore. Come to us, you'll be helped that too without any pain.” So, we rush to them, and we happily get cheated, but we are relieved that we didn't have to pass through pain at least. ‘Fine, I got cheated once again, but I managed to avoid pain. See, how smart I am?’ The mark of the spiritual mind is the willingness to take the pain. ‘Bring it on, bring it on. Yes, I’m ready. Have something here. (pointing towards chest) If you are someone who just cannot go against himself, then there is no hope, no possibility. All progress is only for those, who can stand firm in the face of great inner resistance. All your instincts, all your self-preservation tendencies will cry out to avoid pain, and you'll have to firmly put your foot down and say, ‘No. My pain is my choice. I’m not buckling down, not tipping over, I’m not surrendering to my dark inner self.’ Once you learn to willingly take the pain, there is dignity on your face. Do something that involves conquering yourself and then see how your eyes look.

We were talking about the treadmill, let's say, 15 minutes at a certain speed is difficult for you. Now, run those 15 minutes and the last five minutes are like hell. Every passing second you feel like pushing the stop button, but you continue to run, and when you step down, watch your face. That's what is called dignity. The dignity of consciousness against the dictates of our animalistic self. You have conquered something very important right now, and your face will be a testimony. You love your face and that's what I call as ‘beauty’. That's the moment when one is actually beautiful. That's the moment of your glory, not when you are all cool, composed, relaxed and have put a lot of makeup on. That made-up self is not beautiful.

You are the most beautiful when there are scars on your face, when there are battle marks on your face, when your blood and sweat stand as proof that you are a winner indeed. That's when you look so beautiful.

All the makeup has been washed away by one's own sweat, preferably blood. How about a ‘dp’ (Display Picture) like that?— Will help you to lose a lot of garbage in your friend list.

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