Guilty and Trapped When Someone is Needy

man facing backward stands alone on bridge looking at ocean in cloudy sky
by Dr. Margaret Paul

Do you want to be in a committed relationship, yet end up feeling shut down and trapped instead?

Jackson grew up with a mother who completely emotionally abandoned herself. When she was upset, she would get a long-suffering look on her face, her eyes would fill with tears, and she would slowly leave the room with her head down. Jackson, being a highly sensitive child, felt his mother’s neediness as a pull on him to find a way to fix her, and he would instantly feel guilty because he didn’t know how. By the time Jackson was four, he had learned to completely shut down as his way of not feeling responsible for his mother’s feelings.

Now, as an adult, Jackson has a hard time being in a committed relationship. As soon as a woman abandons herself, which then creates the empty hole of neediness, he feels guilty and shuts down. He ends up feeling trapped in the relationship and can’t wait to get out. Whatever good feelings he had for the woman at the beginning soon evaporate due to his shutting down to avoid feeling guilty and trapped.

Jackson Wants To Get Married And Have Children, But The Idea Of Commitment Terrifies Him

The problem is that Jackson has not yet developed a loving adult self who is capable of not taking responsibility for a woman’s feelings. One aspect of his ego wounded self feels responsible for his partner’s feelings, while another aspect of his wounded self shuts down, to not feel guilty and trapped by this responsibility. Until Jackson develops a loving adult self, capable of letting go of responsibility for his partner’s feelings, and is capable of taking loving care of himself in the face of his partner’s neediness, he will continue to shut down as his only way of feeling safe from guilt and engulfment.

The other issue for Jackson is that he has not validated his experience of another’s emotional self-abandonment. Because his mother’s self-abandonment was covert – no overt guilt-inducing comments at all – Jackson has had a hard time acknowledging when he feels the subtle pull of neediness. He has never been attracted to women who are overtly demanding, such as women who are angry, blaming or critical. His relationships have all been with seemingly open and loving women. Yet energetically, these women are abandoning themselves, just as Jackson is abandoning himself. After all, as I have often stated, we come together at our common level of self-abandonment or self-love.

Jackson is abandoning himself with his lack of validation of his own feelings and experience, and his resulting withdrawal, while the women he chooses are abandoning themselves in much the same way his mother did – not attending to their own feelings and waiting for Jackson to meet their needs. Until Jackson validates his own experience and learns to take care of himself, rather than shutting down in the face of feeling responsible for his partner’s feelings, he will not be able to form a committed relationship.

depressed and lost in the dark

Letting Go Of Responsibility For Another’s Feelings

Because Jackson is so sensitive to another’s emotional self-abandonment, it is vital that he heal his belief that he is responsible for another’s feelings. It is not realistic for him to think he can find a woman who will never emotionally abandon herself, since everyone, at times, will emotionally abandon themselves.

When Jackson gets himself off the hook of believing that he is responsible for a woman’s feelings, then he will be free to stay open-hearted, even when his partner emotionally abandons herself. He will be free to care without caretaking and without shutting down to protect himself from engulfment.

Jackson will become free to develop a committed relationship when he takes loving care of his own feelings and lets go of responsibility for another’s feelings.

To learn more about relationships see: Discovering Self-Love

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