Are You Uncomfortable with Difficult Feelings?
Has anyone said to you “don’t cry”, or “everything will be okay” when you were crying or upset? Have you said this to others? Are you uncomfortable with difficult feelings?
Years ago, I was signing a condolences card for a colleague whose father had passed away. I looked at what other people wrote in the card; phrases like “be strong” abounded. Few seemed to validate the difficult time she was going through. What are we saying when we tell someone to “be strong” when they’re going through a tough time?
“I’m uncomfortable with your difficult feelings, so please stop feeling them.”
When someone is visibly upset and we try to distract them from their feelings, we may as well be saying “Please don’t be that way, I cannot handle it”. Aren’t humans entitled to feel their feelings? Do you allow yourself to experience your own difficult feelings?
Have you been conditioned to push away your difficult feelings?
It’s hard to be comfortable with someone else’s difficult feelings if you’re not comfortable with your own. You may never have been taught how to deal with them. The good news is that it is not too late to learn.
Acknowledging feelings is the first step to dealing with them.
Instead of telling yourself, “get a hold of yourself”, find a safe place where you can be with your feelings for a moment. Feeling sad or upset is a natural human reaction. Acknowledging feelings is the first step to examining them and eventually coming to acceptance or a solution. When we’re comfortable with our own difficult feelings, it’s a lot easier empathize with others, because we’re familiar with the pain of difficult feelings.
Listening with an empathetic, nonjudgmental ear can help calm a person who is upset. It’s like saying “I’m acknowledging that what you’re going through is tough, and I’m right here beside you for support”.
It takes courage to deal with difficult feelings.
It takes courage to acknowledge, rather than hide from difficult feelings. The next time you’re wondering what to write in a condolences card, try “my thoughts are with you during this difficult time. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Now that’s being strong!