I’m really sensitive to the people around me — their emotions, feelings and thoughts soon become my own. It’s like my own thoughts and needs are drowned out. Is this what you call codependency? How do I overcome this problem?
It might be codependency. I would need to do a formal assessment with you in order to determine this for sure.
How long have you been feeling this way? You will find it beneficial to speak to a therapist who could complete an assessment, and work with you long-term to change some of your obsessive habits.
There are a few things I am going to suggest to you in the meantime.
First, it is important to clarify what is important to you, so you are less effected by the values of others. Here is an online values exercise. to start.
Second, I challenge you to disagree with someone. This week, I challenge you to find a topic that you can voice a disagreement. It can be about something small. Perhaps someone is talking about a movie they really liked, but you didn’t enjoy it. Challenge yourself to say “I didn’t enjoy that one“. Or, if someone is talking down a school subject that you happen to enjoy, say “actually, I find very interesting,” or “I like the teacher in that class,” or “I really enjoyed the book we had to read“. You don’t have to go on at length about your differing opinion. If people ask you to elaborate but you aren’t comfortable doing so, you can simply say that you have nothing else to say.
Thrid, start verballizing your thoughts and needs. Look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud: “I believe….,” and “the things I need from today include….“.
Finally, pay attention to when another person’s feelings and thoughts become your own. When this happens, excuse yourself and go somewhere private (perhaps the washroom). When you are alone, say to yourself (this can be quietly in your head) “those feelings/thoughts belong to _________, not to me. My feelings/thoughts about this issue are ___________________“
These exercises will be challenging at first, but with time they will become easier.
You may want to speak to a therapist about other exercises you can do to strengthen your own identity and be less attached to the identity of others.
Tina Cowan, Masters Intern