Parasitic feelings: how to distinguish them from genuine ones


In childhood, feelings arise naturally, but we quickly get used to the fact that some of them are liked by our parents more than others. We try to demonstrate these “good” feelings in order to please them. They become fixed, and in communication with others we involuntarily continue to behave the same way. Gradually, parasitic feelings replace the genuine ones, and we, without noticing it, lose contact with ourselves.

What it is?

In nature, parasites are those who use other people’s resources without giving anything in return. For example, a cuckoo lays eggs in other birds’ nests. The hatched chick pushes the “brothers” out of the nest and one gets all the food.

The parasitic feeling acts in the same way: it replaces another, which at some point became undesirable for us. For example, my child was rude to me, and I give him a drag. I say, “You are punished until you learn to respect your elders.” My anger in this case is a parasitic feeling. I am hurt, in pain, but used to express it in the form of anger.

Where do they come from?

Another name for the parasitic feeling is “racketeering” feeling. In childhood, the child learned to demonstrate certain emotions in order to receive (“extort” – hence the reference to racketeering) attention and care from the parents. In stressful situations, we repeat the same patterns (patterns) of behavior that allowed us to receive good treatment from our parents. At the same time, genuine feelings and needs remain unsatisfied.

It happens that one such feeling is superimposed on another. Initially, the child learns that fear in the family is not encouraged, but it is possible to allow oneself to be angry. But then he grows up and realizes that pouring out his anger is now also undesirable, but it is better to show restraint. So he learns to hide his already learned anger behind a half-smile and a mask of equanimity.

And what’s wrong with them?

Does it really matter that our deepest experiences do not match the ones we demonstrate? In the end, the situation may require a certain amount of self-control from us. By hiding anger or fear, we don’t let ourselves go limp and look confident and mature.

If the child does not see my true feelings, it will be difficult for him to realize the consequences of his action.

Let’s return to the described situation: I scolded the child for saying rudeness. At first glance, my reaction succeeded: I concealed my vulnerability and showed strength. But what’s in the future? A child can learn to hide his discontent, avoid communicating with me, or even begin to be rude on purpose to annoy me. This means that I not only did not achieve what I wanted (so that the child behaved respectfully), but also exacerbated the problem.

Unlike authentic feelings, parasitic feelings do not contribute to the completion of the situation. On the contrary, they confuse us and prevent us from seeing meaning in what is happening. If the child does not see my true feelings, it will be difficult for him to realize the consequences of his action. And in my desire to put him in his place, I myself will find myself in the role of an aggressor and will worry about it.

Should you be afraid of genuine feelings?

Many people are hesitant to change their feeling habits because they are afraid of the consequences, for example, that they will not be able to control themselves. Or their real feelings may be deemed inappropriate by other people. Or they will lose their usual way of doing things.

In fact, showing genuine feelings is only part of authentic communication. If we reject racketeering feelings, it only means that we stop manipulating others and deceiving ourselves. We behave appropriately to the situation. For example, anger can be a genuine feeling if we express it without aggression, without the desire to destroy the offender, to humiliate him in return. We are aware of what caused it, who it is aimed at and why we need it.

Parasitic feelings: how to distinguish them from genuine ones

What to do to get rid of parasites?

1. Know your triggers

Each of us, observing the reactions of parents, analyzing their actions and listening to advice, made conclusions for ourselves about how to communicate with people. Subsequently, these conclusions were fixed in behavior in the form of drivers – motivating attitudes. In some situations, they can be useful: for example, many successful businessmen, athletes and politicians have a “be strong” driver. But at the same time, he forbids to show emotions that are associated with weakness – sadness, anger, unrestrained joy.

It is difficult to be constantly aware of your deepest motives. But if we know that our behavior often obeys a certain set, it is easier for us to calculate it and understand at what moment the categorical “men don’t cry” or “don’t behave like little” sounds in our head.

2. Act appropriately to the situation

People with parasitic feelings often live in a world of imaginary threats. When they meet, they need to show their character, force them to take themselves seriously, designate the territory. Therefore, they often behave aggressively for no specific reason (for example, cutting off others on the road), cannot tolerate disagreement, suspect others of wanting to cheat them.

An authentic communicator does not attack the interlocutor, does not avoid making claims, but does so in a constructive manner

Authentic communication means awareness: I am aware of what is happening right now, with whom I am talking and about what. I understand that, in addition to my interests, there are interests of other people. I am ready to negotiate boundaries and compromise: this does not mean that I give up slack – I try to listen to everyone and respect their point of view.

3. Develop listening skills

Often we just don’t hear what the other person is saying. We react to the voice in our head. A voice that may belong to a parent or someone with whom we recently had a tense explanation. But the one who stands before us now has no idea about it. Therefore, it is important to listen and hear it.

Perhaps we have a difficult person in front of us: he is unyielding, objects and bargains all the time. Try to hear what is hidden behind his words. Perhaps he is possessed by those very parasitic feelings. Maybe this will pass, but he needs to be taken out of this state, to make him feel safe. Try to find out what he really wants with the help of clarifying questions.

4. Master the art of feedback

One of the most common situations that parasitic feelings feed on is conflict. An authentic communicator does not attack, blame, or reproach the interlocutor.

He does not avoid making complaints, but he does it constructively: he says that he is not satisfied, accurately and specifically, offers options for solving the problem, listens to the interlocutor, takes responsibility for what was said and admits his mistakes.

About the author: Sylviana Cannio is a coach, specialist in authentic communication, author of the book “Communication without masks: how to build real relationships” (Delo and Service, 2014).

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