Featured Image: Don’t use your friends as dumpsters for your emotions.
If you’ve never heard of the term “emotional dumping” before, it’s sort of this chronic unloading of trauma or emotions or issues without giving the receiving party a chance to
It may go something like this: You’re having a pretty bad day yourself. You get a call from a good friend and, as usual, you answer it. The friend immediately delves into a personal issue– whether it be minuscule (like their roommate didn’t replace the toilet paper again) or something big. Of course, you try your best to be a good listening ear, because you usually are, and that’s what friends are for. But today was a bad day for you, and you were already low on spoons, so you have trouble responding in the way they expect you to respond (which sometimes can be tricky to figure out). So you listen, offer commiseration to the best of your ability, and hope that after their spiel that you may also have a chance to unload. But after they’re done they say they have to go and hang up, and you are left alone with their baggage, with nowhere to put it. You feel used, like after a one-night stand who didn’t even stay to cuddle.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t go to your friends when you need comfort; it is to say that you must first understand their perspective– would you want to receive this information with no warning? Even the little grievances can be irritating to hear when you had a much worse day.
There is a difference between healthy venting and emotional dumping. As I said, it is perfectly acceptable to go to your friends when you’re frustrated about an issue, but chronically playing the victim and not accepting advice or responsibility makes the receiver feel like a dumping ground and not an ally.
As the receiver, you want to be an active listener and provide emotional support. But in the case of dumping, it is much more difficult to listen, and the emotional support can come off as insincere. It’s important to be understanding and nonjudgemental, but that can be hard when you’re caught off-guard and unprepared.
In the worst-case scenario, emotional dumping can even lead to the receiver getting triggered themselves. That is where consent comes in. It’s imperative that before you go diving into your woes that you ask your receiver if they have the time and emotional capacity to listen. We need to respect our friends’ time and mental state. Sometimes even just showing the respect that you are not looking to use them tends to lend itself to you getting a more active listener.
As a listener, or proactive venter, it’s also helpful to ask: “Do you want me to listen or provide solutions?” This can avoid the aggravation that comes from someone when they just need a listening ear, and you’re offering solutions that they’re not ready to process, or when someone wants solutions, but you’re just saying: “that sucks!”.
Personally, I’m a solutions gal, so if you come to me with an issue without telling me first that you just want an ear, I will more often than not try to fix your problem. And with being the victim of a chronic dumper for many years, my solutions tended to get harsher and harsher, going from “Hm, I wonder if trying x would work?” to “I don’t understand why you don’t just do x?” Often, they would rebuke any solution I brought to the table and so I was stuck being a dumpster. They would hang up the phone and I would sigh, with a heavier weight on my shoulders than what was already weighing on me. It led to a lot of resentment, and I wasn’t sure how to point it out without them thinking that they could no longer come to me.
One of the last straws was when they texted me right before work, saying someone had died and if they could come over. For 15 minutes while I waited for them to drive over, I panicked, wondering which of our close friends had died and how it must be serious if they could only tell me in person. When they came in the door, in tears, they told me it was a friend of an ex they once dated for about a month. I did not know him, and the two of them spoke infrequently. The manner of death was, frankly, very sad, and I hugged them as they sobbed, but the theatrics were hardly warranted. I had lost 3d6 psychic damage before I could even start my workday.
We’re all guilty of it, though. Sometimes something crazy happens and you want to call your best friend before you’ve even had time to process it yourself. It’s okay, especially for the big things. Just don’t be taking massive dumps on your friends all the time. If your friend is the one constantly leaving flaming bags of doodoo on your doorstep and you keep ruining good shoes putting it out, it might be time to have a chat about boundaries. Saying something like: “I love that you feel comfortable coming to me about anything, but there are times when I don’t have the bandwidth to give you the support you need, and so I’d appreciate it if you would ask before you have emotional diarrhea all over me.”
The dumper can say something like: “Hey, do you have a minute to talk? I had a really bad day.”
To which the receiver can reply something like:
“I’m sorry you had a bad day, but I’ve had a bit of a bad day myself. Let’s catch up tomorrow if it can wait.”
“Aw, I’m sorry, give me a call! Do you want commiseration, or do you want advice?”
Healthy communication is easier said than done, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Taking pictures of trash and dumpsters around the city was awkward. As you can see in the featured image, it says “Smile You’re On Camera” and I was like, well that’s fitting they’re trying to avoid illegal dumping but also if they see me taking a picture of their dumpster, it’s going to be real weird.