There is one very specific type of movie that I just can’t watch because I get too upset. I call it a “Don’t Take My Baby” movie.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this type of movie. The most common plot line is: Couple finds out they can’t have baby and adopts. Couple loves baby very much and experience great joy until baby’s birth parents challenge adoption and try to get baby back.
Other variations include:
* Gay partner dies and court won’t allow non-biological parent to keep the baby.
* Parents find out baby was switched at birth and isn’t theirs.
* Mother has been looking for missing baby for years, and refuses to believe baby is dead. Mother finds baby, but baby has a new life and doesn’t remember mother.
* Father loves baby dearly, mother goes to jail, father learns baby isn’t really his and loses custody.
The plot possibilities for “Don’t Take My Baby” movies are endless. These movies are often, but not always, played on the Lifetime network. (Otherwise known in pop culture as “Lifetime Movies.”) However, these plots can also be easily adopted on network dramas, although they usually aren’t as emotional.
The problem with “Don’t Take My Baby” movies is that I can’t handle them emotionally. I don’t even have a baby yet, but somehow the concept of having one’s baby taken away has driven me to hysterics ever since I can remember.
I fully realize that there is an element here that sounds absolutely crazy and you may be wondering why I chose to make this a topic for the newsletter. Well, believe it or not, this does relate to adult ADD and here’s how: adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) tend to be extremely emotionally sensitive. We often lose it emotionally over sad movies, sappy commercials, or distressing news stories.
Sure, “Don’t Take My Baby” movies are always meant to be tearjerkers. But most people can have themselves a good cry and get over it. Adults with ADD are often slower to bounce back.
Because we have a high level of empathy and compassion, we can take on the pain of others (real or scripted) to such a high degree that it sends us down a path of extreme emotional disturbance and spiraling negative thoughts. This, in turn, leads to more stress and the potential to become overwhelmed.
And, as I always say, the more stressed out and overwhelmed you are, the harder it is to manage your ADD.
In order to avoid this scenario, we have to protect ourselves with some solid boundaries. For example, I no longer let myself watch “Don’t Take My Baby” movies. I also won’t watch documentaries about genocide, sick children, or people with terminal illnesses. I simply can’t handle it and I know that watching these things is guaranteed to send me down a bad path.
You may find that in order to keep from falling into the trap of extreme emotions, you need to:
* Avoid watching the news.
* Make certain types of movies or shows off-limits.
* Steer clear of certain topics of conversation.
And when all else fails and you find yourself empathizing just a little too much, try to:
Remember that everyone has their challenges in life. You don’t need to take on someone else’s in addition to your own.
Talk out how you feel. Journal about it if you have no one that you can talk to in the moment.
Explore what it is about someone else’s situation that hits you hard enough to be upsetting. Does it trigger a sadness in you that you haven’t yet dealt with?
Draw a line between “pity” and “empathy.” Having compassion and being able to imagine yourself in another’s shoes is very different–and much more helpful and productive–than feeling sorry for them or taking on their pain.
Most importantly, remember that you can’t effectively care for others until you care for yourself. And this sometimes means avoiding “emotional traps” on television or in the movies.
So the next time you’re flipping the channels and happen upon a “Don’t Take My Baby” movie, think of me bawling my eyes out over a poorly-written and badly-acted movie. Then change the channel.
Copyright (c) 2007 Jennifer Koretsky