Editors note: I read this wonderful article by Lisa and thought it applied so well to those who might be grieving a divorce. I remember people saying things like, “You’re going to be fine,” “You should be glad it happened now while you’re still young and you can get remarried,” or “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. At least you’re not sick and dying.” I realize they were just trying to soothe my pain, but what would have been so much better would have been to hear, “I’m so sorry you are going through this,” or “I know you are in pain right now.” This applies not just to someone grieving a divorce, but to any situation. Here is Lisa’s article on why no one should tell you how to feel, but why they might.
Some Thoughts About Feelings
by Dr. Lisa Kaplin
I’m in a few parent groups on Facebook. I generally find them supportive and filled with lots of good suggestions and recommendations. However, I periodically find the groups frustrating based on many of the group members’ need or desire to push away the feelings of others. Why are so many of us uncomfortable with letting people feel what they feel?
A mother in one of the groups was discussing how much she missed her daughter who was traveling abroad. Another mother responded, “Why would you be sad? You should be excited for her and proud that she’s on this trip.” There’s no doubt that the feelings of pride and excitement for our child would be great as well, but why aren’t we entitled to feel sad sometimes? Why isn’t it possible to feel both sad and proud? Why do some people need to diminish the feelings of others?
The answer, I think, lies in our desire to “make” other people feel better. We are uncomfortable with sadness or negative feelings. That’s understandable, but it’s not very helpful. We all experience a variety of emotions. No emotion is good or bad, but rather part of the human experience. Parenthood has been both the most joyful and the most frustrating journey of my life. Both feelings occurred frequently and sometimes almost simultaneously.
The problem with trying to talk someone out of their feelings is that it actually leads to the person feeling worse and not validated. All of us are looking for understanding, compassion, and validation. That doesn’t mean that our friends can’t periodically give us a good ole kick in the pants, but sometimes we need both compassion and a kick.
Most of the time when we try to talk someone out of their feelings we do it from a place of kindness. We want them to feel better. Rarely do we do it because we are inconsiderate or cruel. Taking those good intentions and really hearing someone out will be a win/win for both of you. They will feel heard and understood and they will feel better which is what you wanted in the first place. Try it and watch how your relationships deepen and improve. Use it with your children for real success.
Fully hearing someone out doesn’t mean that we have to agree with them or even expect that we would have the same response. It just means that we care enough to be present for the other person through any emotion that they might be experiencing. That is what support and compassion look like. It benefits all of us when we are able to both give and receive each of these.
Next time you hear someone expressing feelings, practice just listening to them without trying to talk them out of their emotions. Watch how much calmer and relaxed they become when they are given the space to both experience and express their feelings. Really hearing someone might sound like this: “It sounds to me like you are really upset and sad. It’s completely understandable that you feel that way based on what you are experiencing. How can I support you?”
Lisa Kaplin, Psy. D., CPC is a professional certified life and executive coach, psychologist, and professional speaker. She helps people tackle that “One day I’ll do this and then I’ll be happy” goal, today. You can reach Lisa at Lisa@lisakaplin.com or lisakaplin.com
Like this article? Check out, “Being Newly Separated Means Grieving Your Breakup”
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