Are You Someone’s Trash Can?

Ever since I can remember, most of my relationships have been unbalanced.  I’ve been the one to do the bulk of the work.  It started with my parents.  Both came to me with complaints about their marriage or involved me in their fights or for me to help them feel better if they were upset.  As I made friends, they often came to me with problems or needs, & expected me to listen or meet those needs often without so much as a thank you or even asking how I am.  Yet, if I had a need or problem, I was on my own, unable to count on them for any help.


This was simply a way of life.  Until recently.


I’d realized this was a problem several years ago, but had no idea what to do about it or even if I should do anything about it.  After all, people need someone to talk to & there isn’t a great deal of empathy in the world.  I thought maybe I needed to just suck it up & continue on this path.  After all, so many said, “I can’t talk to anyone else about this problem!”, “I feel so much better after talking to you,”  “You’re the only person who  understands- I don’t know what I’d do without you” or someone close to the person would say, “You need to stay strong for her/him!”  Those phrases made me feel obligated.


Then last year I got sick.  Coming close to dying changed me.  No longer could I listen without having a significant physical reaction.  For a short time, certainly, but not for a long time or even frequently.  Suddenly I no longer felt a bit tired & drained after listening to someone talk about their problems.  Instead, I now feel absolutely exhausted, sometimes for days.  I also realized I felt a new resentment when I was expected to listen to someone who couldn’t even ask how I was doing or changes the subject or interrupts if I start to talk.  I also became very angry when someone would expect me to listen to them, offer comfort or advice without so much as asking if I was busy before taking up my time.  I felt disrespected, taken for granted & much like their personal trash can.


Have you ever felt that way?  Like someone’s personal trash can?  It’s a very unpleasant way to feel isn’t it?


Those who survive narcissistic abuse are often very compassionate, caring people. We know what it’s like to hurt, & want to help other people not to hurt.  We also are people pleasers, because we were raised to please a narcissistic parent.  People pleasing becomes a habit.  As a result, others tend to take advantage of us.  They expect us to help them or listen to them without offering anything in return.  We can become their personal therapist.


While it’s great to help people & listen to them if they need to talk, it’s unfair when it’s one sided.  Relationships should be balanced.  Maybe sometimes you do most of the giving but there also should be times when the other person in the relationship should do most of the giving.


Being the trash can also leads to unnecessary stress in the listener.  The talker is the one who gets to dump all of his anxiety, anger or hurt onto the listener, basically freeing the talker from much of those negative emotions & turning the listener into his personal trash can, catching those negative emotions.


This also leads to resentment from the listener.  Eventually, the unfairness & stress of the situation will kick in, & the listener will be tired of being the trash can.  She’ll be angry & tired, & she has every right to be.


To handle this, I think the best place to start is with God.  Talk to Him about how you feel & ask Him what to do.  Then, do as He guides you to.


Remember, there is nothing wrong with setting boundaries.  You have every right to tell the person who wants you to listen to them that now isn’t a good time, you have a lot on your mind & need some time to yourself, or even simply no.  You need to do this for your own mental & physical health.  Plus, doing so can be good for the talker as well.  He needs to look to God & other people for help.  You can’t be his savior!  By you being there all of the time, basically you’re in the position that God should be in in his life.






Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

4 responses to “Are You Someone’s Trash Can?

  1. Yes the Lord never intended us to be anyone’s dumping ground. I did this with a friend for years and I thought I was doing a good thing because I thought I was minimizing my own problems and focusing on someone who had bigger issues than mind. I wanted to remain grateful. But she was indeed using me and began sucking my spirit completely dry. When I began to back off she said I was not being a friend and cut me off. I was hurt initially but felt so free thereafter. She kind of made me her God sort of speak and would not go to him directly. My time became freed up to strenghten my own relationship with him and I so needed that. Great Post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You really get it!! Thank you!! That is exactly what I’ve experienced so many times. It gets maddening, especially as a Christian when you mistakenly think this is what God wants from you, doesn’t it? It’s very freeing when God shows you that you aren’t supposed to be that person’s god of sorts/trash can.

      Thank you for sharing your story. xoxo


  2. I wrote a post last month on my blog about an incident when my NMIL used me as her trash can. The good thing was my dad came in not long after and God totally spoke to me through him, confirming my identity. It’s actually my favorite moment with my dad.

    Before my NMIL, I couldn’t understand this. I remember a minister at church telling me not to help a woman who was going around asking for prayer. At the time I thought it was cruel to turn my back on her. But now I realize she was a narcissist taking advantage of the prayer team and distracting us from helping the people who really needed help. I couldn’t see it then, but now I get it. Now I know better and I’m better at telling when someone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Its nice to know God is looking out for us and has our backs when someone treats us like garbage. But maintaining boundaries and enforcing them is still really hard for me. I’m not used to being a stern person and I don’t like having to be.


    • Cool.. I’ll have to check out your blog post- that sounds interesting! Thank God for being there for you!!

      It sounds like your minister has good discernment. Always a good thing!

      Boundaries are tough sometimes, especially with narcissists because you have to be so harsh or they won’t get it. It’s maddening!


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