Especially when betrayal strikes, you are tempted to experience your emotional world as simple dichotomous choices like to trust or not to trust. But, adult emotion management is much more complex than this simple choice. Emotional maturity includes the ability to recognize the capacity of the other in relationships and the ability to tailor your expectations to fit the reality in the relationship. You will find that your labeling of relationships extends beyond friend or enemy to describe many levels of relationship engagement.
Capacity of the Person
Understand emotional capacity as similar to weight capacity. Consider a person that has no trouble carrying 25 lb dumbbells. If you increase the weight to 50 lb dumbbells, this new weight will impact his/her ability to function.
In this same way, there are people in your life that have the capacity to manage their emotional state and function admirably. But, the increased emotional complexity that is consideration of your emotions adds weight that they have trouble balancing. Others in your life have the capacity to handle themselves, consider your feelings, and vision for your work in partnership.
Your challenge is to build gradually in mutual emotional support. Rather than all or nothing tests of loyalty, consider engaging with others on a schedule of increasing emotional sharing. When you discern that you have reached the limit of the other’s capacity for emotional support, note that capacity. Rather than disowning the person because of their capacity level, endeavor to engage them only up to their emotional capacity. You do not have to sever associations because they are not the best of supportive friends.
Keep in mind that emotional capacity describes a person’s ability to engage with you in mutually sustainable, emotionally healthy ways.
Do not get into the habit of expecting just because someone is “family” or knows you for a long time or “should be” emotionally empowering to you.
Adult realization includes the knowledge that it is your responsibility to manage your energy and empowerment through careful selection of sustainable interactions. The relationships you were born into can be maintained, but you must also see them for what they are rather than what you wish they were.
Shades of Emotional Engagement
Consider that between friend and enemy, many levels of engagement exist. These levels are tied to the capacity of the other and your expectations for engagement.
Consider the following levels as the shades of emotional engagement:
|Confidant/Protagonist||Intentional feeding of your energy and emotional management reserves. Engagement can be viewed as sacrificial—engaging you to the seeming detriment of the other. Capacity is beyond what you are able to measure.|
|Friend||Awareness of your needs is increased. Effort is made to emotionally empower. Capacity is limited only by ability, but never by desire or intention.|
|Associate/Helper||Task-based engagement. Little consideration of your specific needs, but general accommodation is made. Capacity is limited to certain environments and to assist toward specific goals.|
|Neighbor /Peer/Co-Worker||Neutral impact on energy. Unexplored engagement other than cordiality. Unexplored capacity.|
|Competitor/ Rival/Nemesis||Expend energy toward your goals but in opposition to the other. Engagement is adversarial. Capacity is limited to support of the oppositional interaction.|
|Enemy||Causes energy drain with little movement toward goals often frustrating goals. Engagement is only in conflict. Capacity is adverse and seeks to disrupt emotional management.|
|Archenemy/Antagonist||Intentional drain on your energy. Engagement is deceitful and mis-representative. Capacity is toward dis-empowerment in order to leave you broken.|
[Michael A. Wright is mentor, life coach, entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, and Owner/President of MAWMedia Group. His interests span behavioral health, family systems, and wealth creation. Follow @MAWMedia ]