Yesterday I came home from a counseling session with my husband. We’ve been working on building an emotional connection to one another because we have never had a model for such a connection so we’re learning on how to create that with one another. My biggest weakness with this process is giving empathy to my husband. Taking a few minutes to myself just now, I can say that I struggle with that in other relationships in my life.
Part of it is that is I feel like if you truly understood me, you would see the depth of my pain and stop inflicting pain on me; I’m sure that’s what the other person is thinking as well. Another part of me is just so hurt and in pain, it makes it difficult to recenter and listen to the other person share their feelings without being biased. I’m writing this with difficulty because I have a negative core belief about not being good enough to give empathy especially to the one person who deserves it most, my husband. Please know that as I share what little knowledge I have on this, I’m definitely in the trenches working on this.
I first want to share this video with you, it’s Brene Brown(surprise, surprise) talking about the difference between sympathy and empathy. I think everyone confuses this, I know I definitely did. Most everyone is really looking for empathy when they are in pain. When I say pain, I mean in some sort of emotional struggle.
This is where I’m worried that some of you may get turned off, as if struggling emotionally refers to only those who recognize that they deal with anxiety and depression. This is for everyone who has feelings. When to recognize this is when there is a fight between you and another person, it’s that simple. There wouldn’t be a fight unless someone got triggered, started being defensive and then attacked. I’ll even try to write a script portraying this:
Person A: When are you going to do the dishes? We don’t have anything to eat on.
Person B: (Upon hearing this is triggered, feeling shameful for letting everything to get dirty and now feels reprimanded and attacks) Well if you don’t like it then maybe you should stop being so lazy and help.
Person A:(Is triggered because they were told they were lazy and that what they were doing to help wasn’t enough) I’m not lazy, I do everything around here!
^This is a silly fight. I hope you can see though that even in such a little spat we can be hurt emotionally.
Now I bet you’re thinking then what can I do differently? This is what I’ve been taught should happen although like I’ve said my negative habits have been ingrained in me for 28 years now so this journey has been difficult for me.
Say I made a comment to my husband and suddenly he snaps/makes a defensive comment. Noting my husband’s reaction I can ask, “I can see that something upset you just now, could you tell me more about it?” I’d listen and find a situation in which I would relate, then with remembering those feelings I would respond, ” You must feel so disappointed right now.” I’m connecting and focusing on what he’s going through. This is the simplified version, life is usually a little more complicated than this, hence why we have chosen to do counseling as a couple.
I feel like we typically talk about empathy with starving children and abused animals; both of which I’ve seen videos for a certain organization and cried. I’m hoping this takes it to a deeper level, to your personal family. When your spouse or children act negatively I hope we can start thinking to ourselves, ‘Okay, they’re upset, what is this about? How can I show up for this person who I love?’
This is a talk I came upon by Elaine Walton called, Empathy and the Pure Love of Christ. She shares why having empathy is important and the role it can play in your life.
I struggle with this daily. I’m here though, in the trenches, taking the risk to learn how to do this. I still fear rejection and hurt but I’m not going to let that stop me from moving forward.
I encourage you to find the support you need and get to work.
Do you want to share? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org