I Feel Your Pain, That is All!
Only when we know our our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You
"You DON'T understand." These words hit me as odd because at the time I was in a place of reaching out to a person that was hurting. "You don't know. Look at your life. You have it all. You don't know my pain."
These words hit me like a ton of bricks! In my effort to present a carefully crafted facade, I had escaped detection. She didn't know about my past. How could she? I had worked so hard to make sure that NO ONE I met ever knew. It was none of their business!
While that is partially true (you don't need to tell everybody everything about you), it is not the whole truth.
This was the first time that I decided to step outside of my "perfect." I began telling her a part of my story. The phone grew silent. "If I can conquer it, so can you." More silence. "Are you OK?" "Yes," she said softly. I could tell that she was crying.
It was the first time in my adult life that I had discovered the power of human connection. I connected with her in her pain, not to judge or preach but to say "Yeah, me too."
Up until this point in my life, I had taken pride in my "armoring up" (Dr. Brene Brown's term for avoiding connection). This was my comfort zone. I convinced myself that getting involved in the "messy" details of other people's pain was to be avoided at all costs.
What I later discovered was this: I was really hiding my own pain. My refusal to connect with someone else's pain grew out of my disconnection with my own pain.
This is what we do. Someone call us (or messages us on Facebook) with a problem or "situation" and our first response is judgment, criticism, and blame. If we are in SuperHero mode, we will suggest an all out attack on the "enemy." (Who did this to you? Let's go get them!)
What we don't do is sit with the person in their pain and feel compassion.
The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, meaning
"to suffer with."
Dr. Brene Brown
Opening our heart to the suffering that someone else is experiencing is the greatest form of compassion and empathy.
Yes, you can tell me what to do. I much appreciate your advice. But what I really need you to do is hold my hand. And weep with me.
This is the power of connection through compassion.
You listen. You say something similar to the woman in Dr. Brene Brown's story: "It will be okay. We're all in the same boat."
You simply say "Here's my story. You're not alone."
Today I challenge you to feel someone else's pain. Connect with compassion. Feel the pain. And let that feeling, your pain mixed with their pain, be all there is in that moment.
Melt into the connection. Embrace the moment. And let that be all that you do.
P.S. This blog post was inspired by Dr. Brene Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Join me as we walk through a journey to let go of who we need to be to embrace who we are.