My parents worry about me a lot. They've reminded me my whole life to stay warm, eat enough, and get enough rest. They care deeply that I am safe, healthy, and happy.
I've had to do a lot of inner work to see the expression of love that's behind practically everything they say to me. I've had to un-learn my habit of labeling and reacting to their reminders as "over caring" or "annoying."
Why? Because it no longer serves our relationship. It's only brought us further apart, not closer together.
In a communication course, I did a remarkable exercise that helped with this, that you can try with a friend.
We were instructed to take turns training our peers to reenact an experience of someone saying something triggering or emotionally distressing to us.
We then had to respond with a "thank you." The challenge was that the other members of the group were judging my "thank you."
I had to say thank you from a place of genuine gratitude. It had to be authentic. I couldn't fake or force it to try and hide the pain.
I realized how incredibly sensitive we are to inauthenticity. It took me a good ten tries before I could come to a place of true appreciation.
Why is this so important? An authentic thank you is so hard when we are triggered.
It requires going through all the mental gymnastics and processing our emotions to empathize with another person. It requires unconditional curiosity about why someone would be the way they are.
It's not an easy exercise, but it can be invaluable for transforming any relationship.