Are you an emotional dumper?

It’s a term I’ve just invented and I mean someone who dumps their emotions on someone else, usually in a big untidy heap. Almost like an emotional ‘here you are, deal with that’. 

And what’s the feeling when you’ve been dumped on? It can literally feel like someone has handed you a big pile of mess and you have to figure out what to do with it. It often includes some blame or accusation or a suggestion of what you’ve done wrong. It’s generally unnerving, upsetting and can lead to a feeling of ‘aaagh I have no idea how to handle this’.

What’s the feeling when you’re the dumper? Perhaps relief to get it all off your chest? Maybe feeling that you are entirely in the right and ‘they need to know’? And probably some sort of expectation of a response, which may or may not be forthcoming, and could leave you in limbo or feeling unheard or in receipt of a return dump, or worse. 

The other thing I’m struck by is even if you don’t mean to be an emotional dumper, you are still passing on your emotions – an accidental dump if you will. (And we all know there’s nothing pleasant in an accidental dump – LOL!). Humans are social beings and emotions are very contagious. I was in a supermarket the other day when a customer and the assistant fell out. The assistant refused to serve the customer at which point the, by now very irate, customer started being very loud and angry. The impact on all other people in the vicinity was palpable. We all felt a bit awkward, tense, a bit anxious, a feeling of what’s going to happen next. And you see it in households where 1 member walks through the door in a particular mood and it can literally be like a cloud of gloom hits the whole family. And those are just the accidental emotional dumps, let alone the deliberate ones.

Now I have a theory that emotional dumping is happening more and more due to the many means of communication that the dumper can use. It’s one thing to tell someone face to face. Next step removed is the phone call so that you can’t see one another. But these days we also have email, messaging, facebook comments etc. All become increasingly easier to hide behind and easier to initiate that awkward conversation. There you are having a lovely day, all is well with the world, when your phone beeps and a big pile of poo arrives for you to have to respond to or deal with. As happened to me recently – I went from happy and relaxed to having to ‘deal’ with something. I imagine these situations are more prevalent than perhaps our parents had to deal with and it does create a lot of stress and upset in the receiver. And teenagers with their smart phones are naturally exposed to this far more than they used to be. 

It’s also very easy and common for partners to do it to one another. One walks through the door and the other has spent the day brewing, ready to have it all out, and the storm hits out of the blue. 

Now, as a general rule, I would argue that emotional dumping is not in the slightest bit helpful and highly unlikely to lead to the response that you want. 

If you think you are brewing, churning something round in your head and building up to an emotional dump then there are 2 questions that can be really helpful to ask yourself:

1. What do I want to achieve? It might be ‘she needs to know’, ‘they should understand’ etc. Whatever answer you come up with also then ask ‘How will that help me or the situation?’. Eg your Husband may know how you’re feeling after an emotional dump but that doesn’t mean he’ll respond how you want him to or change whatever it was that caused it – in fact neither is likely after an Emotional Dump! Keep probing your answers further until you get to what you really want to achieve, and why. At which point you are ready to ask the second question … 

2. What is the clear request that I want to make? If there isn’t a clear request, ie some action the other person can do now or in the future, then I would suggest there is little to be gained from the emotional dumping. It is more likely to damage the relationship and erode safety and trust. 

As for what to do if you’ve been on the receiving end? I’ll save that for part 2 on another day. Please like / comment / share and no emotional dumping please! Thanks for reading, Sue X