Today was one of those days when a thought is reinforced through a number of events or discussions that happen during the day. We all have one of those days when you realise you learnt or re-learnt a lesson that you perhaps already knew but had forgotten and today’s lesson was a reminder for me that experience really is the one thing that helps people to understand what you are going through.
I had several discussions today which reinforced this to me and the final takeaway from today is this; in a lot of our encounters, we may find that people misunderstand us or they don’t give us the attention or care we expect when we are going through a situation. This can leave us feeling empty, disheartened and totally hurt. When we are vulnerable, we want people to sympathise with us, to empathise and try to support us especially the people we consider close friends or family. When this doesn’t happen we may feel betrayed and let down and sometimes this can be the catalyst for a breakdown in a relationship as we convince ourselves that that person is not the kind of friend we want and we shut them out. Today, I was reminded that people can find it difficult to understand and empathise with certain situations purely because they have never experienced it and therefore do not know what to do or how to support someone else through it.
My first encounter was a woman complaining about her neighbours young baby constantly crying and she had decided that she would go and knock on their door to let them know how much of a nuisance this noise was causing her. She had never had children and had no understanding of the fact that this is not something you can control. The parent is probably just as fed up as she was and they definitely would not want their child to cry all night long but what can you do when a child is teething or is ill etc.? This woman had a total lack of empathy and I could just imagine how upset her neighbor must have been to have a complaint of this sort in addition to the unending task of managing a small baby.
My second was a conversation with a new parent about the lack of sleep that accompanies a new baby. It was interesting to hear him confess that they he had always felt parents exaggerated when they complained about lack of sleep until recently when he had become a father and finally he suddenly understood, It had immediately given him a lot of empathy not just for other parents but in particular for single parents.
I was again reminded of the power of experience when I recalled a conversation with someone who had lost their mum and she said to me, that I had been so kind to her, especially in the weeks and months after, calling her constantly while a lot of other people seemed to have moved on with their lives and had stopped asking after her or asking how she was coping. I had to explain to her that I had only become empathetic after my own experience of losing my own mum when I suddenly realised how traumatic and life changing the loss of a parent can be. I remembered the feeling of shock and loneliness I felt weeks and months after she passed, everyone had gone back to their normal lives, I was still in mourning. People were having fun, laughing, going to parties and I couldn’t enjoy anything. I was having to pretend to be okay just to reassure those around me I was fine. It was this experience that made me infinitely more sympathetic and a lot more helpful to my own friend when she lost her mum.
It is good for us to remind ourselves that sometimes our friends and families may seem uncaring but that may not always be the case. We can have an expectation that people will know when we need a hug, support or someone to talk to but of course we mustn’t assume people will know this. At times, we have to ask for help and we have to know that when people haven’t experienced certain things they may have no idea at all how difficult it is unless we tell them.
The worst thing we can do when we are going through a tough time and are perhaps feeling that we have been abandoned is to become resentful, angry or bitter. This will harm our relationships in the long term and will leave us even more miserable. Instead, tell your nearest and dearest how you are feeling, seek help from professionals if you have no one you can confide in, cut people some slack and remember communication in any type of relationship is paramount to its success, if you don’t say how you are feeling, then people may assume you are doing ok.
Finally, remember that experience is the teacher of all things and perhaps what you are going through and have gone through will help make you a better person to those around you and crucially, will be what helps someone else out in a bad situation.