We all have topics that bring out the reactivity in us.
Often they are subjects like money, sex, politics, religion, or death. Rather than learn to manage ourselves while thinking and talking about them, we often try to teach others how to not push our buttons. This is because we often rely on others to fill in the gaps of our own emotional maturity.
When I experienced deep anxiety about student loan debt in my 20s, I would become very reactive when other people would talk about their financial challenges. I would quickly change the subject or exit the conversation. I recall snapping at my dad, “I can’t talk about money with you! It stresses me out too much!”
I often have conversations with therapy clients who are trying to teach family members or friends how to avoid certain topics, or how to help make them feel better.
This can look like:
- Trying to teach a family member not to talk about politics.
- Trying to teach your mother not to fret about her weight, because it makes you anxious.
- Telling your partner not to talk about work problems because it stresses you out.
- Telling a parent not to talk about aging, their death, their will, etc. because it upsets you.