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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: The Dangerous "Yes But I..." Disease (focusing on the feeling at hand)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Dangerous "Yes But I..." Disease (focusing on the feeling at hand)

Not to be confused with the dangerous "Yes But You disease..." (see earlier post)'s how it often goes:

Woman: "I am feeling really lost. My mood is just so low."
Man: "Well, I'm really stressed lately. I feel awful too."
Woman: "This is not about you, I am talking about how I feel."
Man: " What about how I feel?"

Okay, so you can change woman to man, or child, or BBF. Doesn't matter really. And chances are we find ourselves on one side or the other anyway at different times. Its just painful, that's all, to tell someone how you are feeling and have them come back with how they are feeling. It creates distance at a time when closeness is what's wanted.
It makes sense, though. Often when someone tells us how they are feeling, we may think there is a subtle, or obvious, accusation that we are the cause of it. So we get defensive. Or we want to let them know we understand, so we put in our own feelings, or we want to make a connection, make a point or get some soothing for ourselves.

Perhaps we are afraid that we won't be able to help, or that we will say the wrong thing, or create a separation rather than a closeness. Then we will have to endure bad feelings, like helplessness, hopelessness, failure or annoyance. Its not easy to wade through these to the other side where connection and hope waits. Sometimes we may be afraid of the closeness that comes from walking through, so we turn things back to us in order to create a distance.

Our motives are not always conscious, of course, nor are they singular. And we do usually want to protect ourselves from hurt. It may be harder to respond with a "tell me more." Or an "of course I care, I did not know how distressed you were." Or even "Tell me what I can do. I'd like to make things right. Lets talk it out."

It can be our turn later, to get what we need, but sometimes sticking with the listening and the giving, staying with the feeling, however uncomfortable, and letting the conversation happen can pay dividends many times over.


Eating Alone said...

I never really thought of that before. See I'm putting myself in again! HA. I want people to know that I am thinking of them and want to be close to them but never thought of those things that you said. I'm going to try and work on that. More of the tell me more type of stuff.

HealthInRecovery said...

Great article. Also closely related to the "One Up" disease :) ...those who always try to get "one up" on you, even when it has to do with you venting an emotional or physical pain. Thanks for posting it!

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

Hi Eating Alone...yes, the tell me more stuff goes a long way...glad you stopped by

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...


Shen said...

This is something I've become aware of in the last year. I first noticed that my husband does this during arguments. I say, "I am angry about this" and he says, "Well I'm angry about that."

Over time I have realized that I have been guilty of this, too, and it isn't only about anger.

For me, I believe I do this because my feelings were never honored when I was a child. If I complained about anything, I was met with sarcasm,
"Oh you have it so bad"
or with exactly what you described,
"I feel worse than you"
or even with accusations that it was all my fault,
"If you didn't do [such and such] then neither of us would feel this way."
I believe acknowledging another persons pain makes me feel that I am denying my own feelings.

I don't know if I'm saying this clearly or not.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...


Very clear! Thank you for the reminder that what we do always has roots in what we learned as children and to protect ourselves.