You are not a trash can; so, don’t allow people to dump their garbage on you.
Are your friends or close family constantly unloading their problems on you? Do they dominate conversations by continually talking about themselves and their issues, and don’t show any interest in you and what you have to say?
Don’t you feel drained and depleted afterward?
In an ideal world, a friend comes to you with a problem, you feel valued that this friend chose you as their confidant and that they trust you enough to open up to you. You may often feel indebted to help in any way you can; you listen empathically and offer some advice, support, or a safe space for them to feel heard. They feel better, and you feel rewarded.
End of story, right?
Not if your friend is a “dumper.”
What if this scenario keeps repeating?
They keep complaining, and you keep sympathizing. You want to be there for your friend and offer your support because that is what good friends do.
You see, some people, because of their own shortcomings, frustrations, disappointment, and anger, carry their negativity like garbage trucks carry garbage. And, when their container of negativity gets full, they have no choice but to dump some out.
Regardless of the issues, and because of their emotional entanglement, they ease their pain by dumping their negativity on you.
When a “chronic dumper” continuously unloads their garbage on you, they don’t necessarily want an answer or a solution to their problem – they just need to whine and complain. By allowing them to dump all their distress on to you, you are “supporting” a process that may offer temporary relief, but gives the dumper a free pass to stay in their negative state without a chance to grow.
If you happen to be the person that is always available and always gets dumped on, you eventually start to carry their negative vibrations and therefore feel drained, exhausted, and worn out. No friendship is worth risking your own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
How do you keep yourself protected from “DUMPERS”?
1- Know the difference between dumping and venting- Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff, MD
- Feels healthy
- Sticks to one topic
- Is time-limited
- Doesn’t keep repeating the same topic
- No blaming
- No victim mode
- Shows accountability for their part in the issue
- Open to solutions after expressing yourself
- Feels toxic
- Overwhelms you with many issues
- Keeps repeating the same thing
- Blames others
- In victim mode
- Goes on and on
- No accountability for their part in the issue
- Not open to solutions
2- Set Emotional Boundaries– Decide how much you can give without feeling drained and overwhelmed. Gently remind your friend/co-worker, or family member that you love and support them, but you cannot be a therapist for them. Release the need to “FIX” everything.
Related article: How to set healthy boundaries
3- Communicate– Being nice and an empathetic friend does not mean forgetting about your own wellbeing and peace of mind. No matter how close the other person is to you, it is not ok for them to drain your energy and continuously talk about their misfortunes. It is ok, and sometimes necessary to tell them NO, we are not going to go there today. Once you set your boundaries, it is up to you to assertively enforce them and draw the line where you had enough. Stop being a people pleaser and don’t allow yourself to get emotionally burnt out by needing to be a “good friend.”
3- Keep Your Distance- Know your time and energy’s worth. If all your efforts fail and you are still getting dumped on by negativity, keep your distance! Practice self-love and self-worth. People treat you as good as you treat yourself. If you allow others to mistreat you, it can imply on a subconscious level that you feel unworthy.
A person with healthy self-worth recognizes the unjust behavior and respectfully disallows it. Valuing yourself worth sets the standard for how other people will treat you.