How to deal with other people fears / feelings

It is important to take into account the feelings of the people who surround us. We do not live alone in the world, and we usually tend to develop ourselves in meetings and relationships with other people.  

We are born in a social “system” with parents and eventually siblings, and perhaps extended family. 

The importance of extended family depends on the culture. Many times, with good intentions, parents and family or other people express their feelings when it comes to the actions we do or don’t do. It is used, unconsciously, as an upbringing method. When we are children and we are helpless, we need adults to help us survive. Therefore, we are very flexible, and many of us do more than children should do to make adults happy. 

If you didn’t know, children think they are responsible for what is happening with their parents. So did you, when you were a child. 

Well, they are not. At the same time, they don’t know that if nobody explains that to them, and they take this feeling of responsibility for the adults in their lives with them in adulthood. 

When some of these responsible children become adults, something goes wrong and determines them to move abroad at a particular time in their life. For the moment, I choose to speak only about two reasons they may choose to do this.

The first one would be because they feel responsible and go abroad to work to still be accountable for their parents and send money home.

The other reason is that they don’t want to feel responsible for their parents and siblings and want to live their own lives. 

Both categories keep in touch by phone and internet, since it is so easy these days. If you read some history or see films from not more than 40 years ago, you can see that sometimes people would leave and would not even call. It would either be expensive or because they would feel they do not have a reason to as long as they do not have “results”. 

The modern times where it is so easy to keep in touch makes it more difficult for some people who moved abroad to actually live their lives without any influence from the family left behind and without feeling guilty about it. 

After having and raising children and after retiring, some parents do not know what to do with their time, and they do not manage to let go of the children who left. Some of them keep calling even up to ten times a day. They do not have the emotional maturity to see that their children have grown and now need to live their lives. It is happening a lot in areas of the world dominated by traditional and patriarchal ways of life. 

Media doesn’t help either with a lot of stuff that is accessible about all the places in the world and is good in inducing fear in parents with children living abroad and not only. Therefore, they call and express their worries to their children and make them responsible, again, for their feelings. 

Now, I want to make it clear, that these parents are not aware of what they are doing. They simply do not know better. No parent wants, consciously, to hurt his/her child. The deepest intention is always good. It is just that not always comes out right.

The good news is that we are seldom responsible for other people’s feelings. We can consider them and be careful about them, and do the best we can to not hurt them. At the same time, we are not responsible for how they feel or react. The only responsibility we have is how we deal with our feelings and in the same way, they are responsible for how they deal with their feelings. 

The big issue here is that our parents did not learn how to deal with their feelings. Emotional education is not something we learn in school, but something we learn through the family and from our parents. Therefore, if they did not learn anything like this, they cannot teach their children either. Sometimes it can feel like a closed circle. 

As adults, we realize that they are important to us and we care about them. What we can do is to help ourselves first. Learn how to be aware of our feelings and then help them. Learn about them and figure out what happened in our parent’s past, so we can have an image of what they have experienced and what makes them react the way they do today. With new knowledge about ourselves and family history, we can become the adults in the relationship, and we can teach our parents about awareness over their feelings. 

It is not an easy thing to do. It requires a lot of work, even take up coaching or therapy. s out. There is no shame in that, and research proves it helps. 

This way, you can learn to distinguish between the fear other people feel regarding your particular actions and your own fear. I find it important because we often act according to society and other people (family & friends) and not according to our own wishes. 

I bring here as an example, The Five Monkeys Experiment:

Two Harvard researchers put five monkeys in a cage. There’s a bunch of bananas hanging from a string, with a ladder leading to the bananas. When the first monkey goes for the bananas, the researchers spray all five monkeys with freezing water for five minutes. Sometime later, when a second monkey inevitably tries to go for the bananas, the researcher once again sprays all five monkeys with the cold water for five minutes. The researcher then puts the hose away and never touches it again. But, when a third monkey tries to go for the bananas, the other four attack him to prevent him from climbing that ladder. They are afraid of the punishment that may come.

Then, the researcher replaces one of the monkeys with a new monkey who wasn’t part of the original experiment and was never sprayed with water. And, as soon as he touches the ladder to go for the bananas, the other four monkeys attack him to keep him from doing so. If he tries again, they attack him again. Thus, the new monkey learns not to go after the bananas because he’ll get attacked if he does.

The researcher replaces a second monkey with another new monkey. When this monkey goes for the bananas, the other four attack him, including the new monkey who was never sprayed with water. The researcher then continues to replace all the monkeys one at a time, until all five of the original monkeys are removed from the cage. Each time the newcomer goes for the bananas, the others attack, even when they, as new monkeys, have never received punishment for going after the bananas. And thus, the new monkeys, who have never been sprayed with cold water, learn not to go after the bananas’ temptation.

The researchers hypothesize that if they were to ask the monkeys why they don’t go for the bananas, they’d answer, “because that’s the way it’s always been done”.

The question here is who the people that surround us and hold on to us even from thousands of miles away are? What kind of experiences do they have? Are those experiences personal or learned from other people or media? 

What is the type of Fear we respond to? Our own fear, or other people’s fear? Are we aware of the distinction? Are we responsible for how other people are processing their own feelings, in this case, their own fear when it comes to our actions? 

In this case, fear multiplies it’s intensity. It is enough to stress being afraid our self of the journey we chose to take. When the other people are projecting their fear on us, then the burden is at least double. We can feel anxious, rejected, and responsible to calm them down and assure them that everything would be ok.

If this article made sense to you, please leave feedback underneath. Also, if you find that it could be helpful for you to speak about these kinds of fears, feel free to register for a free therapy session here. A lot can be clarified in ONE good conversation. 

2 thoughts on “How to deal with other people fears / feelings

  1. A great article about this immensely important topic that most people are not even aware of. Thanks, Gabriela!

    1. Thank you, Martina! Yes, it is true. Few people think about this kinds of issues. Yet, I believe that at some point in their lives, miles away from where they grew up, they will find a way to cope. Each in their own time,

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