What is the cost of being an emotional caretaker in a manipulative relationship? Loss of self-esteem; increased anxiety and depression; a growing sense of hopelessness and helplessness; exhaustion; a sense of emptiness and increasing hurt; fear; and frustration. Caretakers often feel trapped in relationships because of their sense of loyalty and reluctance to hurt the other person, no matter what that person has done.
Instead of the reactions of fight-or-flight, most caretakers respond to danger, anger and hostility by shutting down. Their breathing becomes shallow, they freeze up, and wait for the danger to pass. This shutdown process makes thinking fuzzy, as muscles tense up, and even heart and digestion rates slow down. This reaction can result in physical problems such as migraines; indigestion and other intestinal problems; insomnia; neck, shoulder and back aches; and an overall sense of defeat.
How does one stop being an emotional caretaker? The most important thing to do is to value yourself and treat yourself with as much respect as you do others. Value your own wants and needs and preferences. Set boundaries that don’t allow others to invalidate you, put you down, or ignore what is important to you. Learn to fight and to flee effectively when you are in danger.
Care for yourself first and then offer your caring to others. It can change your life.