Thinking more about this topic and just have a simple question:
What do you most wish that someone in your life understood?
Let me elaborate just a bit. In my experience a lot of pain comes from feeling misunderstood. Broken relationships can often be traced back to someone grossly misunderstanding something about the other person.
Yesterday I felt some serious discomfort upon finding out that I have been misunderstood by someone in my life, perhaps for years. Immediately, I felt defensive, hurt and even angry. The questions swirling in my mind were along the lines of: don't you know me better than that? does that sound like something I would do? what kind of a person do you think I am?
So I had to take a look at that. Why did that bother me so much? On the surface I felt mostly offended. But what's underneath that?
It's the pain of feeling misunderstood. I don't need a therapist to tell me why it's painful to feel misunderstood. We interact with others and we develop relationships in which we feel safe and part of that safety comes from knowing we are seen for who we are and loved. When I feel most loved (i.e. safe) I feel that someone sees to the center of who I am...the REAL ME...and loves that Cheryl. I am then...well, SAFE.
The opposite of course is feeling unloved...unsafe. That's why it's so painful to find out that someone with whom I've shared myself, who has experienced me, who I trusted to see me as I am, misunderstands me. There is an immediate flash of fear...WHO have they been experiencing all this time? It wasn't ME. They've been experiencing another version of me, not seeing who I really am. I trusted them with myself, believing that they truly saw/loved me; to find out they didn't when I thought they did is just plain painful.
So back to my question. But think about it in a slightly different way. What makes you feel teary or emotional when you imagine that person in your life really "getting" you, seeing you, understanding you? I can think of a few people/situations that make me want to sob.
If that person could somehow understand what I was feeling when I did what I did....
If this other person wanted (really, truly wanted) to understand the pain I was feeling when....
If that person met me with a desire to understand ME, not approve of everything about me...
Of course I can't make that happen. If I've learned anything, it's that we don't understand one another unless we WANT TO. I can't force someone (or even ASK them to, really) to want to understand me.
But there is something I can do. Something you can do. It isn't easy. It's not comfy. It stings a little because it means putting ourselves out there with no guarantee we will be "met" in a reciprocal way.
We can approach people in our lives with an honest desire to understand them.
We can say things like:
"What do you wish I understood?"
"I want to understand how you felt. I won't say anything in response. I just want to hear how you felt and what you experienced."
"I have no desire to change you. I want to "get" you - the REAL YOU."
Typing those sentences makes me cry. Why? Because if someone approached me with that sort of desire to understand ME...it would utterly change the inside of me, help to heal wounds in a way nothing else can and make me feel loved in a way nothing else would.
So I want to give that to others. Not wait for them to reciprocate. Not expect them to do that for me in return. But freely give that to them.
I know, I know...that's hard as hell. But isn't that love, after all? Seeing the one who hurt you curled up in a ball of pain and rushing toward them with comfort you have the power to give, even if they don't comfort you in return? I don't mean lying down and taking more abuse from them. I don't mean sitting there while they tell you how rotten they think you are. That's not what I mean. It is offering an ear, an open mind, an open heart and a desire to understand the other person....with no conditions.
If we all did this, I can't help but think our world would be an utterly different place. I can't know that for sure, but I do know it would most certainly change ME. And YOU.