When you understand, you cannot help but love.
Since it's near Valentines Day it seems appropriate to write about Love. Why is it that it is often the hardest to communicate with the ones we love? Why is it that we misunderstand the slightest of things, and react? Or that we also say things that don't show the care we really feel? Is it that we want to protect ourselves from pain? And it seems like such a paradox that we want to protect the ones we love from any pain and doing this we say things that often bring hurt and disconnection.
For example, if someone I love is in pain, my brain kicks in that I must rescue them from this pain. So if they are feeling discouraged and don't have trust that they can do something, I say "Yes, you can! You're amazing!" in hopes of reassurance. Yet all they hear is that they shouldn't feel bad. Then they're all alone in their feelings because I don't get it. And they're even worse because they don't just "get over it and move on." which would make me happy. ARGGG! And they react with "You don't understand" or "Yes, BUT blah, blah blah" or whatever to justify their feelings and we go back and forth. And pretty soon, they walk away. I'm acting out of love, but my care is not being received. How do I show my love?
Am I the only one that goes through this? What's so ironic is that when I'm hurting, and I feel sad or disallusioned or hopeless, I just want someone to get how much pain I'm in, not to solve it, just to be with me and understand. So I know how it feels, yet I still jump in.
I realize not everyone feels this way, many people report they just want relief from the pain. I've never seen being talked out of it really working though in either case. It's like the pain never really gets heard and so goes back into hiding, waiting to come out. And we feel alone in it.
What I have learned, through lots of "mistakes" and opportunities to learn, is that Empathy first really helps with connection and understanding. It's really unconditional love - showing that I can receive and be with whatever feeling or thought my loved one has, with no judgment that they need to shift or change or be different right now. Showing them they are not alone in their pain! Then there is no condition on my love - they don't have to be happy, or be "over it" to be loved. I love them with all their thoughts and feelings! Mostly that I get how they are right now and that they are not their feelings or their thoughts. They are having an experience that I can acknowledge and walk along side them in. And in so doing, I may ease their suffering.
My children have been my teachers in this. Especially my oldest daughter, who now can articulate - "I just want you to get how hard this is for me right now and how much I hurt." Wow, that helps me. She has been my greatest teacher of learning to understand and learning to be in empathy with her, instead of consoling or fixing her. There is nothing wrong, nothing is broken.
So I can meet my need for showing love by hearing and either offering silent empathy or empathy out loud. It might sounds like:
"Wow, I hear you're really hurting right now. You're really doing the best you can right now and it's hard. And you feel really sad because you aren't connected to trust in yourself or in your competence? Did I get the place you're in?"
So for Valentines Day or any time when we want to show love, show your unconditional love by listening, and really getting where your loved one is coming from - give the gift of empathy. It's a gift for you because you'll have your needs for contribution to your loved one met! And it's a gift for them to have some understanding and companionship when they're hurting. They'll let you know if they were heard. And then you can check in with them and see if they'd like your offer of reassurance or hope, if that's what they're wanting. When you understand, you love!
Marcia has been studying and practicing Nonviolent Communication since 2005. She has experienced immense joy & gratitude while learning this consciousness. This blog reflects some of that learning.