There are people who overwhelm and exhaust. They gobble up our time and energy. They are not at peace with themselves and try to sow wars wherever they go, leaving behind a trail of discomfort and frustration. Their attitudes and words often take a toll on our emotional balance, causing us to become stressed and twitchy. If we do not stop them, we run the risk that they end up destroying our happiness, dragging us with them to a state of chronic dissatisfaction.
Saboteurs of happiness
A study conducted at the University of Rochester revealed that 1 in 10 people have a psychological profile that is exhausting or very difficult for others to manage. These people were called “saboteurs of happiness.”
They tend to use the others as “emotional containers.” Their fears, insecurities, uncertainties and anxieties pour out on us. Although they do not always do it consciously, they are specialists in transferring harmful emotions.
The mechanisms through which these people steal our psychological energy are different. Some do it through verbiage. People who talk too much can be exhausting because they demand our attention at every moment of the conversation. These lengthy monologues force us to constantly put ourselves in their shoes, an exercise that can be strenuous.
Other people can oppress us with criticism and complaints, whether they are directed against us or against the world. Talking to them is like diving into a stream of negativity and pessimism that ends up affecting our mood. These people often have a problem for every solution we come up with, so they can end up infecting us with the attitude that no effort is worth it.
There are also those who burden us with their excessive demands. Some people can become very self-centered, so they try to impose their priorities on us by making constant demands that make us relegate to the background, neglecting our own needs.
Why do we really get overwhelmed?
Emotions, whether we like it or not, are contagious. The empathy that we usually experience when we establish an interpersonal relationship, turns us into emotional sponges capable of absorbing the toxic energy that surrounds us. As a result, after these encounters we can become psychologically exhausted, irritable, angry or depressed.
However, sometimes, it is easier to blame the others for what we feel than to take responsibility for our emotional reactions. Therefore, we must always ask ourselves if we are really dealing with a person who is oppressing and stressing us or if we are the ones who are already burdened and stressed.
Often, everyday stresses, latent conflicts, and unresolved issues create a labile and vulnerable mood. Under these conditions, anything can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
In other cases, what overwhelms us is not the attitude of the person himself or herself or the emotions that he or she transmits, but some “pending account”. That is, when we have an unresolved conflict with someone or have swallowed too many words and harbor resentment, it is understandable that their mere presence annoys, irritates, and overwhelms us.
Protecting our emotional balance by setting limits
No one has the right to create storms in a calm sea. If we discover that there are indeed people who oppresses and drain us with their words and attitudes, we will have to take steps to protect our emotional balance.
It is important to establish clear psychological limits and enforce them. In most cases, the people who burden and sabotage our happiness have our unspoken agreement. We agree, for example, when we go along with it so as not to escalate the conflict.
Instead, we must be clear about what attitudes we are not willing to tolerate in order to stop them as soon as they appear. If we are not willing to be a reservoir for complaints, for example, we could ask that person if there is a specific problem that we can help with, rather than just listening to the entire string of complaints.
Generally, these people are not aware of the impact of their words and attitudes on the others, so sometimes a “wake-up call” is enough to redirect the relationship on a path that does not jeopardize our emotional well-being.
Montgomery, B. M. & Duck, S. (1991) Studying Interpersonal Interaction. Nueva York: The Guilford Press.