Importance is in this order
When I was a new immigrant to America, iI was exposed to many unfamiliar things coupled with complete bewilderment. Shortly thereafter, I was attending a local college to learn English as a second language. At the end of the year, I was honored to be chosen to deliver a speech on behalf of the class.
I was terrified… Me? In English? In front of the whole college?
In addition, our relatives were visiting from Hungary and we planned a weekend trip to Mt. St. Helens. All of these activities related to preparation and packing went far beyond the usual duties of hospitality.
When I got home and relayed the news and revealed my jitter to my mother in law, she soothingly told me: “You don’t have to worry.” With that comment, I exploded.
It was innocent, right? She had good intention, didn’t she? Still, I’m sure you know what I am talking about.
Every one of us has experienced situations when we only wanted to vent a little bit of our negative emotions to find validation – let it be worry, anger or fear – and then someone rejected it.
“That’s a silly thing to worry about!”
“I’ll spank you to give you a reason to cry!”
“Don’t be so sensitive!”
How does it feel, do you remember?
Other than the original negative feeling: hurt, worry, fear or anger, now we are either scolded, rejected or even belittled. We feel a mix of negative feelings.
Frustration – Anger: I wanted validation from him/her and s/he does not give it to me.
Shame: S/he says I am inferior if I am complaining about such a small thing.
Self-doubt: Maybe there was no reason to feel that way.
Fear of rejection: If I communicate about this kind of negative feeling, I will not be accepted/loved.
Fear of abandonment: If I communicate about my negative feelings, people will not talk to me.
It is especially damaging for children who need help learning to recognize, label and appropriately express their feelings.
Of course we better not dramatize children’s small falls especially when they look at us in doubt. How are they supposed to react after tripping? However, if they had a serious fall, hit themselves and are crying and you tell them: “You’re OK!” This response discredits their physical hurt.
How would it feel to you if someone doubted your headache?
Moreover, the child who is way more susceptible about the adult’s opinion than the parents with their fully developed ego, discrediting their pain can be really confusing to them. They feel the pain in their body, while the adults say they don’t feel it. Who are they suppose to believe?
For smooth communication and nurturing relationships, we need some level of understanding and accepting of the other’s feelings.
These levels are:
You acknowledge someone’s feelings when you say: “I hear you; you are angry.” “You don’t want to go to school.” “I see you don’t like the dinner.”
It’s neutral. It’s not an opinion. You don’t say anything about it: like it or not, accept it or not, only acknowledge what you see or hear.
The next level is understanding: Can you understand when someone’s angry? Most likely. Can you imagine a child does not want to go to school? – I hope you still remember when you did not want to go to school. And most likely you have had an experience when people don’t like the same type of food.
It’s easy to understand when you feel similar to how I would feel in the same situation. The challenge comes when you are angry about something that I would not be. It could be you fear something when I don’t. It’s the question of flexibility if you still can understand your partner even if s/he has an unusual reaction to a certain event.
Accepting the feeling might be hard especially with negative emotions. You have to have a fairly stable ego to peacefully accept that your child is angry at you. (You don’t have to hit the ball back by saying “Because you did this or that, so it’s your fault.” You’ll survive a little bit of anger.)
Accepting that your friend is going through a long and complicated grief is not easy.
Accepting that your partner is struggling with depression might be very challenging.
However, you can help them and even yourself the most if you understand and accept that there are life situations when we inevitably will feel negative feelings. It does not help if we blame each other or others. The best way to overcome them is if we understand where they originate from and what can we do in order to eliminate them. If you go along this line: that is absolutely indifferent if you would feel the same way in the same situation or not.
Empathy is what we all need most when we feel bad. It means that I can imagine what you are going through – even if I don’t go through it -, I understand your pain, and I am with you in your suffering.
Feeling your situation does not necessarily mean that I am depressed if you are depressed. Rather, it would be prudent to say I definitely can imagine how difficult it could be for you and I am sorry that you are suffering.
Sometimes it seems friends avoid people in trouble because they either fear that they would feel the same – (Please! Depression is not a communicable disease.) – or they simply don’t know what to do or what to say.
It is simple. Just be with your friend. You can simply hear his/her complaints. Sometimes only sitting near the bedside is enough. You don’t have to figure out a solution, you are not expected to come up with ideas or chase the bad feelings away. Just accept them as they are. Not being isolated, being understood and accepted by the world might mean life or death for people struggling with depression.
If you want to have the cooperation of a child, you need to show your understanding and acceptance: “When I was a child, there were days when I did not want to go to school.” “I know how hard can be if a friend does not speak to you anymore.”
You don’t have to act out in reality what the child wants in order to be supportive with his/her emotions. Fantasy solutions can have a surprisingly soothing effect. “I wish I can let you stay home.” “I’d be happy to buy that toy for you if I had money.”
Feeling that they are understood accomplishes the desired effect: you can get their compliance easier if they feel your emotional support.
Even if you are not able to empathize, accept or understand the other’s feeling: at least
PLEASE: Don’t deny!
Just because you don’t want to – they are still hurt sometimes!
Every EMOTION is understandable from one or another perspective.
Let’s find out the reason of your suffering and work out a solution for it.
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