Hello there, Have you ever had a friend who was going through something potentially devastating? How did you connect with them? Did you connect with them? What were the first words that came out of your mouth or were texted from your fingers? So often we immediately respond with sounds and words of lamentation. We say we are sorry, we take on what we feel the appropriate response to whatever the situation is that we are being told about. Other times we communicate what we believe we would feel if we were going through what our friend/loved one was experiencing. Psychologists say that this show of empathy is supportive. I agree that empathy is important, indeed. My concern is for the person going through whatever the fuss is about. How do they actually feel? What if they feel differently than the societal norm? What if they aren't sad, angry, confused? What if they were ok with the situation or felt a great sense of peace. If they go against what others would believe appropriate they not only have to deal with their own judgment of their response but the judgment of someone else who has presupposed a certain reaction.
I tend to be someone who doesn't react to things the way that society would suggest is normal. I know that everything happens for a reason. I rarely lament my situation or experiences. I am never a victim and I feel like I can change my world by changing my view. When I am faced with news or a situation that would be perceived as challenging I usually move through it quickly. Even when I am crying or angry or quiet and sullen I am choosing those feelings in order to absorb the importance of the experience as well as allow the emotions to run their course and not block them. I feel deeply and quickly move on. Most of my close family and friends understand that I am overall consistently content. Others just don't get how I am able to see the shining light in every seemingly dark night. Well, first you have to look for it.
I prefer to be asked how I am feeling about a certain situation before anyone decides to feel any which way about it. After all, whatever has happened hasn't happened to you, right? Why take it on before you know how I or whomever, is handling it? What if someone finally broke up with their boyfriend after years of being done? What if they never told anyone that they were ecstatic at the prospect of being away from a toxic environment? You wouldn't know these things without asking how they were feeling about the breakup. Asking how someone is doing before deciding that the situation is awful is a good rule of thumb. The question demonstrates that the focus is on the person going through the drama. The answer to the question is a great guide on how this person needs to be supported. If they tell you that they have never felt better you are now off the hook for feeling bad… you can rejoice with them. If they are feeling down and out you can help lift them up…
We project our feelings onto one another all of the time. Rarely do we give each other the opportunity to own their own responses to life's ups and downs. Try asking how someone is taking a life event before deciding to place your own personality and ideal response on it. You just may be surprised and they just might get supported.