Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, writes, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
i’ll go even further. when one of our life adventures, no matter how awful, is received with empathy, we feel accepted for who we are and where we are. that acceptance is powerful and a form of love.
i went to my psychiatrist yesterday. recognizing how my depression can be a drag on Mary, i not so eloquently asked him, “any suggestions along the line, obviously when i’m in a bad space, it’s also a bad time for Mary. any suggestions along that line?”
dr. rogge replied, “…have some empathy for one another…just acknowledge it; that’s all you have to do.”
simple. yet, at times so difficult.
i recognize when i’m in a bad space, i am so wrapped up in myself. it is hard to see anything. i can imagine the difference it would make if i could say something like, “i recognize that when i am in depression, that it’s a hard time for you. i wish i didn’t have to drag you through it. when i do, it brings me sorrow as i’m sure it does for you, too. i wish that didn’t have to happen.”
or perhaps from the other side. “i recognize the depression puts you in a horrible place. that place is not of your choosing. when you get taken to that place, it makes me sad. i wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
both of these statements ooze empathy. they acknowledge the wretched state and do it with out judgement. being on the receiving end of either of these statements, would make the situation feel a little less heavy and i would feel a little more accepted, a little more loved.
one thing that has become clear to me is the power of our group, that being the people who suffer with mental disorders. we tend to seek solace with one another. we unknowingly and unwittingly become a support structure, a shoulder to lean on. its that willing ear, an understanding being, someone who has walked a similar walk. that makes it easier to leap to the feeling of, “been there, done that, i understand.” that generates strong feelings of belonging and empathy. those feeling give us a feeling of connectedness, that connectedness we as humans all desire.
so in closing, i offer up a challenge; act out of empathy today. in doing so, you will be taking a small step towards making the world a better place.