11/14/2011

They are My Feelings!



Too many times in life, we think we know how others feel. We experience similar things and assume we know what the other person is thinking. We can be at the same place, at the exact same moment in time and witness the same occurrence and yet, see it completely different.

Psychologists have known this for ages as have investigators. That is partially why, in court cases, many eye witnesses are called to testify. Often times there are real differences in their stories of what they witnessed. In the perspective of the witnesses, they are each telling the truth, as they recall. But recollection is based, frequently, on their own personal filters and biases. This is unavoidable. Thus they vary.

This same factor is true when it comes to relationships. It is not uncommon in arguments with friends, siblings and spouses for one party to play the spokesperson for both parties feelings. This is not healthy. Each of us experience life differently and we each need to be given the opportunity to own our feelings and our reactions to life in an individual way.

In trying to control the reactions of people you care about, it really only serves to distance them from you. Resentment will build and no matter how well intended you may be, it will fall on deaf ears when you attempt to tell others how to feel even if your intent is good, to safeguard them from pain or offset issues. The best lessons in life are self taught often times. Stating unsolicited viewpoints directly such as be less reactive, more caring, less sensitive, more vocal, less competitive, more positive, less negative, etc… can trigger the opposite reaction than what one would expect. Instead of being grateful for your input, you may find your recipient very irate.

Most of want the freedom to react to live on our own terms and the support of our inner circle to do so. When asked opinions about how one should feel, it is completely different to respond as that is not unasked for but even then, a word of caution must be adhered to. Giving out recommendations when you are emotionally connected to others and are not a licensed counselor can be hazardous to your health and theirs. This is especially true if you are not saying what they want to hear and they are holding back internally what they are feeling. The cost of your outspokenness could be a major roadblock in your relationship. Listening is invaluable, mirroring what they say and feel is priceless and allowing their individuality is what builds bridges among friends.

I always find it amazing how children can come from the same home, same family dynamics and yet see the world so differently. I see this very clearly when I look at my three grandchildren. The oldest is just turning four and already they have uniquely different personalities and react to stimuli differently. At times, it is unpredictable too, just like the rest of us. These children cannot be put in a box or labeled as to what they will say, what they will do and cannot be completely controlled. Thus, they are human. They will continue to see their home, their family and their lives through their individual perspectives, each uniquely differently. This is the creativity of God at work.

Why do we kid ourselves and say to others “I understand exactly how you feel?” In reality, unless we have walked the same footsteps in life someone else has, how would we know? No one has walked in someone else’s shoes and seen the world through someone else’s eyes nor been inside their head to read their perceptions. We can never really assume we know truly how someone else feels and tell them that honestly. To assume otherwise and state that is to belittle a human being’s true emotions.

This is especially true in times when someone is going through an event traumatic, such as the death of a loved one or remembering something horrific. To say aloud that you know how they feel is to imply you understand all of the history and dynamics of the relationship over the years or what it felt like to go through a particular event they went through. I ask, how could you, you are not uniquely them? I believe in showing compassion and empathy but I believe in honesty also. Honestly, there is only one of them, and one of you; you can’t know all there is to know about their feelings and reactions. Let them own their emotions and not feel you are trying to control theirs. They have the right, you do not.

It is important to remember that each of us is indeed unique. Allow for that individuality in others you care about so that they can experience the world differently and express it in their own unique way. You may find their journey of self discovery will aid you in yours!
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