It’s been during these really difficult times I’ve been through over the last 6 – 12 months that I’ve realised as humans we really are so shit at understanding and empathising with each other.
We all seem to fall back on cliché sayings when someone we care about is opening up and saying they are struggling. The best ones I can think of is one when I said my partner of 6 years had just left me and someone turned around and said “Oh don’t worry, you’re young and beautiful, and you’ll find someone new in no time!” And the other was when I said I’d had a miscarriage. The response was “Oh that’s ok, you can just try again and hopefully have better luck next time!” Another one that I obviously haven’t heard recently, but have heard so many times said to kids, is when they say that someone pinched them or hit them at school, and people turn around and say “Oh that means he/she likes you and wants you to pay them more attention!”
Ummmm what the actual fuck!!!!
When my heart is absolutely broken over loosing someone I loved and thought I would share the rest of my life with, walks away, the last thing on my mind is finding someone new. And no nothing is ok when you have a miscarriage. It’s not a matter of better luck next time. I just lost a baby. It’s the most devastating and gut wrenching feeling in the world. And telling a child that someone must like them because they hurt them, or is picking on them, is causing the most fucked up thought processes in society as to what love should actually feel like. It’s teaching us that in order for someone to love us, they must hurt us. I understand why people say these ridiculous things, as they feel uncomfortable and don’t want to make it worse, so then panic and make it worse by saying the first crazy thing that pops into their heads. But it causes so much more unnecessary pain.
I’m definitely not having a go at these people and I have no ill feelings towards them as many people had very similar responses, and I know that in the past I’ve said some pretty stupid and in hindsight, hurtful things to people I care about when they have opened up to me. It’s not because we don’t care, it’s because we care too much and want to make the person feel better.
But what I’ve realised is that when someone is opening up and sharing such personal information, it’s not because they want the other person to fix the problem. Or to come up with some insightful advice that will change the world. All they really want is to know the person is listening to them and is there for them. I think that’s all any of us really want, is to feel that during our struggles, that someone has our back. That someone feels for us and cares about what we’re going through.
I’ve realised that the best response anyone can give you when you’ve just poured your heart out…..wait for it…..it’s really complicated…… “I’m sorry you’re going through that, it must be difficult.” BOOM!!! That’s it. No attempt to fix the problem. No cliché advice handed down through the ages that makes it all so much worse. No insightful Buddha style quotes to attempt to make the problem seems less than what it is. And no unnecessary story of a similar situation that a friends, uncles best mate went through in 1946.
It’s called showing empathy and compassion and I promise you, next time someone opens up to you, try that simple sentence and watch for the relief on their faces. Also next time your partner or work colleague is going off at you for making them feel shitty, make sure your first response is “I’m sorry that you’re feeling that way.” (Whether you feel that they are right or wrong, is irrelevant. It’s about making them feel like you have listened to them. Chances are it will soothe a lot of their frustration/anger and they will then be able to have a more rational conversation about what is upsetting them). It shows them that you care. It shows them that you understand it’s a difficult thing they are going through. It makes them feel that their problem is validated and heard. It makes them feel that their emotions and pain are important to you.
Imagine the last time you opened up to someone or were upset at someone. Now imagine if they had of responded with those words. Feels good right? You’ll probably agree that whatever emotions you were feeling would have dissipated or at least lessened pretty quickly.
Now imagine how it would have felt if you came home from school and told your parents that someone hurt you and they gave the cliché response that it means the person likes you. Imagine how confusing that would be. Imagine how that would set you up for a lifetime of pain by learning that you have to hurt someone in order to show them you care.
I discovered this problem when I was in the Navy. I met a few guys that were absolute sweethearts and I actually said to them if I wasn’t gay, I’d marry them in a heartbeat. They were caring and respectful of the women they would take out on dates. And in return, these girls would treat them like shit. And then I’d watch these girls chase after guys that had taken them out on a date, taken them home and had sex and then never spoke to them again. These women would chase these guys that treated them like shit. I saw it happen in reverse as well where the guys would chase girls that treat them like shit and would ignore the ones that were kind to them. It absolutely blew my mind and was so confusing to watch.
It made me think that this behaviour stems from that cliché. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but I honestly cannot think of any other explanation as to why people would chase others that treat them like shit, rather than the ones that were kind and caring to them.
Writing this has made me realise I’ve actually done the same thing. I’ve chased women who treat me like shit. I haven’t done it consciously. I don’t sit here and think oh she is treating me like dirt I might chase her some more. I think subconsciously when you have low self-esteem you think, maybe if I was nicer they would stop treating me this way. Maybe if I was different they would treat me better. So you put yourself down even more and they continue treating you like shit and taking advantage of your kindness and the nasty cycle continues. And when it continually happens you get to a point where you actually feel like you deserve to be treated that way so you just put up with it and allow it to happen.
Wow. This blog has ended up on a totally different path than I expected and bought up some pretty painful feelings. But I’m happy it has. This is why I chose to start writing down my feelings as it helps shift a lot of shit that I find difficult to process and brings up emotions and pain that I didn’t even realise were laying there.
It has highlighted such a massive problem in my life that I allow to keep happening. Realising that I have actually accepted the fact that I feel I deserve to be treated like shit is really painful. How did I get to that point? How did I allow myself to think I’m less than anyone else? How did I end up with such a low opinion of myself? How did I end up thinking it’s ok for people to hurt me over and over?
So many questions that I need to work through. So much work I obviously need to do to start standing up for myself and to stop allowing people to treat me so poorly. I actually feel really sad at the moment, but I also feel a fire burning in my belly that is raging with determination to never allow this shit to happen again! I need to figure out why I’ve allowed this to happen in my past, and focus on ways to not fall back into the same patterns in the future.
Back to my original point…. If someone is expressing themselves to you simply say “I’m sorry you’re feeling that way.”
Try it. I dare you!