by: Jamie Rautenberg
Someone I love experienced a painful loss in their life recently which they shared with me on a phone call. I gave them my full presence, listened with an open heart and held a space for them to cry and simply feel & speak of all the discomfort arising in their body.
And then, they apologized for displaying grief and crying as if they were doing something wrong.
This is a habit I see in many I speak with because we often expect others to be uncomfortable with emotional pain.
But, we’re only uncomfortable seeing pain if we haven’t processed and validated our own-something I learned through being forced to be with myself through my own physical & emotional suffering during periods of intense trauma.
Because I validate my experiences, I never judge another’s pain. Nothing offends me in witnessing how another might process it because I know the importance of allowing ourselves to release our emotions, no matter how they ask to come out. I don’t get triggered into a reaction of discomfort within myself.
What was interesting is that I received another call a few days later from that same person saying I didn’t truly empathize with them and they felt unloved because I did not have a strong emotional reaction to their experience.
It’s true that I was not crying, but it did not take away from the fact that I was, in fact, holding the utmost compassion & love in my heart for this person, as I do for anyone who shares anything with me.
Most come to believe that empathy & love means that others must experience the exact response we have, and if they don’t meet this expectation this must not be love and we suffer.
However, true love & compassion has nothing to do with placing these conditions on those around us, but rather of holding a neutral space for ourselves and others to experience any emotional reaction that arises without a need to judge it as wrong.