Monday, January 23, 2012

The Emotional Bank Account

Has anyone ever asked you for a favor and you immediately feel resentful, as if they have a nerve even asking?

And yet someone else could ask you for the same favor and you don't hesitate. You might even feel privileged that they asked.

What's the difference?

In the first instance, someone is trying to make a withdrawal from your emotional bank account without having made sufficient deposits.

Not so for the second person.

Emotional deposits don't have to be numerous. One simple act, one word even, can represent a huge deposit. But when someone tries to withdraw and there are insufficient funds, that's when resentment takes over.

JB and I took our dog Stella for acupuncture for several years, often twice a month. The receptionist Jamie at the animal clinic was often not friendly. She did not greet us as if she knew us and she did not make it easy for me to hold on to Stella, who was ready to leave, while I was trying to write out a check. I just had this feeling she didn't care one way or another.

It's been one month since Stella died. Two days ago we received a small package from Jamie. In it was a clay paw print of Stella's elegant foot and includedthis note:

We cried. Jamie made a huge deposit to our emotional bank account. I will from now on view her differently, will make allowances for her personal style, will greet her warmly with with real affection. All this reaffirms my belief in the emotional bank account. Got to make some deposits at least some of the time. Otherwise, it doesn't balance. And sometimes one small act is so big a deposit that it allows a lot of slack for a long long time.

Love kj


  1. I'm with you on this. I also find that people who TRY too hard to make emotional deposits are upsetting to me - my night deposit is often closed to those people. and it makes me feel bad. I literally get scared!! But there are those that get instant credit for real heart felt moments, despite being pills the rest of the time.

    It was a lovely thing she did, I would have cried also. I just about am

  2. So well said! It also reminds me not to judge people because they behave differently in situations than I would. What a wonderful thing she did for you!! Significant and lasting! Love, SIlke

  3. It restores my faith in humanity to read this. It also reminds me to do small things, caring things, for people. All these deposits, they add up to a good life. :) xox

  4. It's often those little gestures that make all the difference, isn't it? So Jamie isn't perfect but now you know she's not heartless. So good to know she actually did have a place for all three of you in her heart. I know I am keenly aware of little acts of generosity or thoughtfulness. And I definitely respond well to kindness!

  5. "How full is Your Bucket"

    That book made so much sense to me. The whole emotional bank account notion. It is so true. But on the flip side it bothers me that we are such a people of equation. It hardly speaks to unconditional love. Is there such thing? Because that bank account is a real force, whether I want it to be or not.

    That was so sweet of Jamie.

  6. Oh how I love this - what a beautiful gift. I am a big fan of kindness in all forms.


    p.s. I love the photo of your snow covered flamingos... Totally unrelated, I just wanted you to know :)

  7. I have the same belief, except I try not to let the resentment decide for me...If it is the right thing to do I try to do it if I can. having over the last two years or so gone through a very stressfull time a friend equated it to a spiritual bank account, I make the deposits through some action or other of mine, usually something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return I earn spirit bucks...the only problem with this account is that I can never be sure what the balance is.

  8. i understand exactly what you are saying kj. we each have in us the power to do so much with so very little. caring, kindness, making a connection. i think these are the things that make for happy living.
    bless her heart, and yours for being so open, accepting and forgiving. jamie hurt your feelings, and i know first hand how kind a person you are.

  9. Wow KJ!
    What a wonderful post!
    And I guess you must have deposit something in the past at her bank. And I love the fact that maybe underneath her mask she is a different person theen you thought she was.
    Indeed just small things can make big differences in this world.

    What a wonderful gift of Stella you got one month later

  10. Amazing insights, kj! Thank you for sharing them. Reflecting on those kinds of things are so important.

    BTW, how does emily rabbit fit in relation to your emotional bank account?

  11. This made me quite tearful. I am someone a bit like Jamie I guess whose outward awkwardness does not mirror their inward warmth. I wish I knew how to be different and I am learning (albeit slowly). Sometimes people break out or reach out and it is all the more surprising when we've assumed that they are not in the least bit interested in us. Just goes to show that you never never know ...

    I'm so glad you have another lovely momento of Stella. I look at her picture sometimes because she had the most lovely eyes.

    Big hug xx

  12. What a pleasant surprise. Two pleasant surprises actually. But I think a receptionist has to be kind and polite doing her job.

  13. Hear hear! What a lovely gesture :)

  14. this kindness does speak to the thought of not judging people. Hard to do though sometimes.

    With all due respect, KJ,I will never be able to think of people in terms of my or their emotional bank accounts. Too left brained. In fact I never heard of this way of thinking before you wrote this. It reminds me of my parents, Dr. Dad and nurse Mom, who measured everything.

    I am tired of measuring. I did spend a lot of my life measuring mostly myself. Am I enough, do I give enough, do I get enough. On and on.

    now i just have to let it all flow.someone gives me something, i may return it but to someone else. IE pay it forward. and I'm talking here esp about kindness and generosity of time etc.

    on the other hand i cannot deny that someone saying something kind to me effects me deeply and leans me toward that person rather than away.

    someone being rude to me or harsh causes me to lean away.

  15. What a wonderful remembrance of Stella, and so kind that the girl had it done.
    Yes, we need the bank refilled; it can't constantly have withdrawals made without input.
    I'm thinking your balance is very high at the moment.... ;-)
    Talk with you soon.


  16. mim, i know what you mean i used to struggle with this too, but i've come to know that so much depends on time, place, and circumstance. i can't embrace everyone. i can be kind, definitely, and respectful, and cordial, but my own 'bank'
    has different levels and i'm okay with that. xoxo

    silke. hello! letting go of judging is a high art form, i think, and a very helpful way to live.

    pam, i don't think you need a reminder. i think you live this way. and your dolls and your art and your family and blog confirm it.♥

    i love your comment, cs. it hits the heart of all of it. thank you xoxo

    annie, the thing is, i think feelings are feelings and i don't think they keep score, but they react when something feels right and when it doesn't. i believe most definitely in unconditional love: i feel this for my little grandchildren and my daughter (not so easy with adults and partners). but even then, when mr. ryan hands me a drawing he has made for me,or tries my soup even while he's complaining he doesn't like soup, that is a 'deposit' in my love fund. i'm wanting to give out as many of those 'deposits' as i can, even and definitely a smile to you in the grocery line . ♥

    kristin. you are triple kind!!!

  17. wander, resentment is a good word for what i wanted this post to be about. it builds up when things feel one sided or ignored. but i don't worry about my balance and i don't think you should either. love multiplies and dividends accumulate :^) personally, in general, i do find the more i give, the more i get back. and someone who gives me little or nothing, well: i'm not into judging why, but i'll reclassify and/or move on. ps a few exceptions: i'm patient with a few special people

    lori, gulp. thank you. you are a bright star in my sky and you 'enrich' me in many ways. you are my friend. xoxox

    marianne. maybe so. makes me think about what jamie perhaps saw in me, in jb, in stella. or maybe she just knows how important such an act of kindness is at a time of loss. i am so touched by what she did for us.

    rob bear, it's me, emily!!! the only thing i keep track of is my jellybeans. if i don't like what's happening, i just fall on the floor and kick and scream. that works very well. but you know jos and lori and anne and now annie are involved in the avocado business, and that counts with me. more jellies for all! sincerely, e.r.

    jos, the one thing that seems to matter to me is that someone smiles or acknowledges me when i smile or acknowledge. it's so easy to be preoccupied=jamie was always busy in that front office/ as for you, jos, i can see the kindness in your face. it's all over who you are. introverts shouldn't try to be extroverts. i have a feeling those who come in contact with you see you very differently than you make think. xoxo

  18. I try to remember that what appears to me to be the case with someone else, might not be. It's hard sometimes, but I do try, and this post will help me in my resolve.

  19. This is so right and true. And with people you just never know, what Jamie did showed her true colors, always best to reserve judgement. xoxo

  20. wieneke, jamie wasn't rude. she was not warm. but i'm looking back through a different lens now; now that i can see she understood the depth of our loss....

    caroline, it is a gesture i won't forget. sniff, sob

    suki, i apologize for stirring up what sounds like awful measurements from two people who should have been encouraging and loving, not measuring. i've used this concept of an emotional bank account in training that i've done, trying to help people understand why they feel and react as they do. kind of like: a neighbor borrows your shovel and never returns it. another neighbor borrows your shovel and returns it along with fresh blueberry muffins. you'll have different reactions. that's my point about the emotional bank account, not keeping a scorecard. xoxox

    anne, and you are a zillionaire ♥

  21. snow, your comment reminds me of this story of two little kids screaming and running amuck on a subway train. finally a passenger approached their father and said, 'why do you let your children behave like this?" the man answered, 'i'm sorry, we've just come from the hospital and we've lost their mother...." i will never forget that story. i have a work supervisor who says " it's okay to blame but it's not okay to judge." xoxo snow

    annie, how true. and too, if things get too imbalanced for me, i usually pull back. that way i don't get to the point of resentment. xoxo

  22. This is SO TRUE. I DO feel resentment sometimes, with folks who keep making withdrawals.

    I love this and send you a huge and warm hug.


  23. Your post makes me thoughtful about how I am sure that I come across as unthoughtful to some people I care about deeply. My horoscope today was a zinger and has synchronicity with your emotional bank account concept (obviously, I need to pay attention):

    "You haven't felt compelled to reach out to certain friends in a long time, though you do feel a strong kinship. The spirit of your love thrives sometimes in spite of evidence. But can the other person feel it, too?"

  24. you and i both, sharon. and a giant hug to you.

    lydia, now who might this be? i think you should make the call....


  25. oh i loved reading this. it is such a blessing in life when someone whom you've come to see as a difficult person ends up doing something that touches your heart so much you completely change your opinion of them.

    and what a lovely keepsake by which to remember your precious stella♡

  26. I cried, too. What an incredible thing Jamie did. I don't think we ever know what is behind people's behaviour when they seem unkind. I find it is better to duck my head and hope for a better encounter with the person next time. I'm not privy to what is going on in their lives at the moment.

    So glad Jamie made such a huge deposit for both you and JB! xx

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