Emotional Science


I spent a long time in my early adulthood creating boundaries in my relationships.


Setting these boundaries was rarely graceful.  The goal was to get the sickest people out of my life.  Fast.

Today, my boundaries aren’t aimed at keeping people out.  I’m a bit more practiced at navigating toxic people and I’m not afraid of them.  But I don’t want to be BFFs with them either.

For me, this is major progress.

These days my boundaries are less about keeping people out and more about defining where I end and you begin.

For most people, this isn’t a problem.  “Normal” people can clearly distinguish the difference between my problems and their problems.  “Normal” people can keep the focus on what they can control and direct their energies towards only that within their sphere of influence.

I don’t get “normal” people.

I’m more of what I like to call a “semi permeable membrane.”  Remember back in high school science when you were studying cells?  Me neither.  (That’s what Google and Wikipedia are for, amiright?) So allow me to remind you that a membrane is the outer wall of a cell.  A semi permeable membrane is one that allows some molecules to pass freely through the wall of the cell and intermix at will.

And that’s how I feel a lot of the time…I feel like my I allow other peoples’ emotions and successes and failures to freely pass through my consciousness as though they are native to me.  This is called emotional diffusion.

In fact, I have difficulty sharing my life with others without feeling responsible for their feelings, actions, and outcomes. This is called self-importance.

(We are learning so much today, aren’t we?)

No one illustrates this point better than my children.  When my 5 year old, Peanut, feels angst about school or friends or life in general, my unconscious reaction is to take on the angst myself.  I so quickly get wrapped around the axle because so-and-so said or did such-and-such to Peanut.  And it didn’t even happen to me!

And when the two-year-old, Pumpkin, hauls off and smacks her sister on the head with that toy train?  Somehow I can make that my fault because I wasn’t watching closely enough or I haven’t clearly explained to her why trains are not to be used to inflict blunt force trauma.

See?  I’m not normal.

The boundaries I set today are more about recognizing what is within my sphere of influence and what has nothing to do with me. This seems so logical but it is such ambiguous, challenging, ongoing work for me.

Apparently, I’m a slow learner.

All around me lately are reminders of how over-invested I am in the lives of those around me…

  • I see the evidence of my over management of details at work.
  • I read a fascinating article about over parenting that made me squirm with self-recognition.
  • Instead of listening and empathizing, I try to fix my partner when he tells me he’s had a tough day.


I don’t have an answer today other than I need to ease up in just about every area of my life.  Or, as my good friend likes to say, “Don’t just do something.  SIT THERE.”

I would do well to remember that whatever your problem is?  I am definitely not the solution.  Or at least not the best one.

It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 50, you deserve to have and solve your own problems without my interference.  I don’t need to use diffusion to permeate anyone else’s life.  Even if you are my husband.  Or my children.

Maybe especially BECAUSE you are my husband or my children.

Today, I resolve to give my loved ones the dignity of experiencing their life as their own and not making it about me.

Today I will remember that I don’t have to be semi-permeable or engage in emotional diffusion.  I am a whole entity unto myself.

And for that, I am grateful.


Your turn: Are you too permeable?  Where in your life are you “diffusing” yourself?




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