Meaningful relationships are integral to our sense of well-being. We are hardwired to connect with others. Loneliness and isolation are experiences that are highly linked with anxiety and depression. We need connection in order to thrive
But what if your relationships are stressing you out? What if connecting with someone in your life results in you feeling burdened, frustrated, and confused? Do you have a relationship that feels like “it’s always about the other person”? You are always talking about what’s going on for them, what they are feeling, how they are coping, what is stressing them out. It seems like there is a never-ending sequence of problems, issues, and drama. But you don’t ever get to share about your concerns, stressors, or thoughts and feelings.
You might be dealing with a “tornado”. Tornadoes are a force of nature that can suck you into their vortex, hold you hostage while bombarding you with debris, and then spit you back out. Getting constantly sucked in and spit out is exhausting. These types of relationships are unbalanced…there is little reciprocity. Over time, being in this kind of relationship results in you feeling resentful and angry, which can seriously harm the connection you have.
It’s important to recognize when we have a “tornado person” in our life. The thing is, in many cases, tornado people don’t even know what they are doing in relationships. Often, it’s not intentional that they make their own issues the priority. Really, this is another case of people just trying to cope the best they can in the moment. Tornado people are often in a lot of distress. They are having a hard time coping with life’s demands. They may be struggling themselves with anger, anxiety, or depression. Nobody really likes to be a tornado person. There is often a lot of guilt and feelings of incompetency or worthlessness. Understanding and empathy is key here. Most of us want to support, help, and comfort the important people we have in our lives. But what if the person you are trying to support is a tornado person?
When we work with clients who are struggling with relationship issues or problems in therapy, sometimes it is the case that clients have so much empathy that they can’t move away from the tornado. When a person sees a tornado coming at them, they don’t run towards it, right? They move away from the tornado. They recognize the harm that might be coming and they shield themselves. But when the tornado is a friend, family member, co-worker, or loved one…well our empathy kicks in and we just wait for the tornado to suck us in or we run towards it! And thus, the relationship continues to be one-sided.
But there is a better way! Examining the nature of the relationship and establishing healthy boundaries is key. This might involve having to be more assertive and prioritizing your own needs. This is very challenging for some clients. Some people have a really hard time accepting that they have their own needs and wishes that deserve to be acknowledged. But ultimately, a healthy relationship is built on healthy, appropriate boundaries and reciprocity.
Are you struggling with a tornado person? Or are you the tornado person in the relationship? We can help to identify unhelpful relationship dynamics and work on implementing better ways to connect with the important people in your life.