My first experience of emotional labor comes from my relationship with my mother. My mother is emotional dependent on her children. My second experience comes from my relationship with Kevin, my husband. I was and still partial am emotional dependent on him. I think to some degree you are always going to be emotional dependent on a person. It's how you work things through; you talk it over with that person, get feedback or advice and at the end you feel better for it. However there's healthy emotional dependence and unhealthy. The biggest question is determining when you have crossed that boundary. In the case of my husband I went to therapy. Therapy didn't fully fill the role but it did help me balance my emotions and be more self aware. In the case of my mother, I ran away. I moved out at 17 and left the emotional burden to my siblings.
There are far better people out there that can talk to you about the burdens of emotional labor (seriously just google it). I'm just here to write about my experiences and my take on it. My most recent take comes from day 7 of the You & White Supremacy challenge.
- I wanted to be annoyed for doing the work and not getting treated special for it, even though I wasn't posting my responses on the IG posts.
- I wanted to be annoyed with being called out for not doing the work daily.
- I wanted to be annoyed that I was being asked to google things instead of being allowed to ask my questions and get responses.
And it's in that last one that I realized that I was expecting others to hold space for me in a place that was about challenging that expectation. I have never really thought about challenging that expectation before. In the case of being emotional dependent on my husband, I realized it wasn't a great situation for the two of us and did something about it. But that is not something I have ever thought to do before. I don't want to be an emotional burden to others. My goal is to do the work myself. When it comes to educating myself better, I want a teacher that can direct my questions but allows me to figure the problem out vs a teacher that hands me the answers and does it all for me.
It makes me curious what would have happened if I had not run away in the case of my mother. If I instead said "this is not an appropriate thing to be sharing with your daughter." or "hey, maybe you should seek out adult assistance aka therapy". I can't feel to guilty for these actions, I was 17 and had no idea that the situation wasn't normal. But I am not 17 anymore. I am strong enough to do my own emotional lifting and if I ever am not strong enough, that's exactly the purpose of therapy. So when it comes to learning about white supremacy I shouldn't expect people of color to do the labor for me. I live in a time of google and there are many who have written answers to the questions I happen to have. It's just time to start using those resources.