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Watch Out for These People


Several times a week I have discussions with clients about being mistreated by others. This is because not everyone is as mentally healthy or as nice you are. If you often end up being mistreated by people, my guess is that you’re hanging with friends or family who are emotionally greedy or needy or both. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Shawna runs herself ragged taking care of others who rarely extend themselves for her. Her grandmother calls her several times a week to complain about her life and many are the days that Shawna spends her lunch hour as a paralegal running errands for her. Then there’s Shawna’s car-less best friend who is constantly begging her to take her places. She frequently asks to borrow Shawna’s car or crash at her apartment when she has a row with her boyfriend. Shawna is the go-to person with family and friends to get things done and lend an ear, and I fear that I’m the only one taking care of her. 

I divide the dysfunctional people in her life into two categories: needy and greedy. Obviously, we all have needs, emotional and otherwise, but some people are unable or unwilling to manage their emotions on their own and depend completely on others to do it for them. Needy people can’t handle being upset and turn to others to console, calm and cheer them up. They’re emotionally unstable and unskilled and therefore dependent on others, requiring near constant attention and nurturing. 

Greedy people want more and more of you. No matter how much you give, it’s never enough. Shawna’s best friend is a great example of emotional greediness. She doesn’t consider how her requests (more like demands) affect Shawna and calls her friend selfish when she won’t lend her money or give her a ride somewhere. 

These are not unusual stories. I wish they were. Many dysregulated eaters choose people (yes, actively choose them) who overflow with excessive emotional needs that they should be able to meet on their own and who want more than is healthy from others. But wait, you might say, Shawna didn’t pick her grandmother to be in her life. This is true, but she does choose how close she wants to be with her now. We’re stuck with our blood relatives, but we get to shape the kind of relationship we want with them.

If you surround yourself with people who suck you dry, there’s a good chance you will turn to food (or drink) to nourish yourself. If you’re an adult, you’re not a victim and can set limits and boundaries with others in order to take care of yourself. Consider the people in your life who are emotionally needy or greedy and refuse to let them walk all over you. Believe me, if you don’t meet their needs, they’ll find someone else who will.