With the holiday season upon us, it feels appropriate to talk for a moment about gift giving. As it so happens, I learned something interesting about myself this week, when I set up my daughter’s new computer.
Bryanna’s birthday is at the end of August, and for her birthday, I offered to put together a new gaming computer for her. The computer she had was old and slow, and was really past its end of life. I’d done something similar for my son, Chris, and that had turned out to be a really fantastic project. He wanted to build it himself, so I pretty much just offered guidance, supplied the budget, and stood by as a safety net while he put it together.
Bryanna didn’t want quite the same experience. She learned this year that while she likes computers, she doesn’t see a technical job as being in her future. That seems fine to me, so once we got that straight, it was just a matter of me getting the parts and putting them together.
I was really excited about doing this for her. I enjoy putting computers together, anyway, but this was extra special, because I was putting it together for Bryanna. I knew what a huge upgrade it was going to be for her. I’d played some League of Legends with her on her old system, and we joked about it being a potato. This was going to be fantastic experience.
The parts came in on Tuesday, and I put it all together. Bryanna was free to be as involved as little or as much as she wanted to be. She seemed upset. I got it put together for her, set it up, and she seemed wounded. There wasn’t anything I could do or say that would make her smile.
Bryanna and I have talked about this already, and it turns out she had just been having a bad day. Her horrible reaction to the new computer apparently had nothing to do with the computer or me. It was just bad timing.
The problem was that I felt so horrible afterwards. I felt like my heart had been cut out. I’d been looking forward to the excitement in her eyes so much, and instead I found sadness and disappointment.
The take-away from all of this is that I’m not quite as altruistic as I thought. If I was altruistic, I wouldn’t need to get the positive feedback. I needed it, though. I needed to feel like I had done something good for my daughter. When that need was not satisfied, I felt terrible.
I’m not sure how to work on that, or if that’s even a problem. I want to believe that I can rise above selfishness and do things for the benefit of others, purely for the benefit of others. In practice, however, I’m seeing that I’m really just satisfying my own need to feel needed. I wanted to give my daughter love and affection, and see it reflected in her eyes, so that I would receive love and affection in return.
Hmmm…I wonder if part of it was that you also picked up empathetically on your daughter’s emotions? So, because she was feeling icky, it spread a little of itself to you. I’m very easily able to pick up on the emotions of others and I’ve found that if someone is angry, or depressed, or sad or anything else that is kind of intense and unpleasant, then I come away from them feeling the same way and it takes me a little while to come back from it.
I’ve also found that INFJs and INTJs (and ENFJs) are particularly prone to becoming an emotional sponge when they’re around the strong emotions of others. And, of course, because she’s your daughter you two are especially bonded and connected.
I thought of that, but sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that I might possess that level of empathy.
I’ve always been pretty sensitive. And I do pick up on other people’s emotions around me, making them my own. It can lead to me feeling downright manic.
Perhaps my poor reaction was a combination of things. I needed to feel something positive from the experience of giving Bryanna the computer, and not only did I not get that positive feedback, I got a huge wash of her dark emotions. I was going full steam ahead, and the vehicle got thrown into reverse and wrecked my gears.
Serving someone you love — making them happy — is like a good business investment. When you put in all that effort and don’t get a good ROI, of course you feel bad. You’re allowed to feel disappointed or resentful… just don’t show it to HER. Not until you’re both adults, anyway.
It’s good you had the wherewithal to talk with her about it afterward. Smart. Well-handled.