​What Is It That I Need?

​​The other morning I had an emotional conversation with my husband. He asked me what it is that I need. And I just started crying, and at first I said that I don’t know. And then as we talked several things emerged.

I told him that I am not sure if I am a part of the problem of why it is so hard for me to receive what I need. And yet I don’t know right now how to be any different. I have spent my entire life being put together, calm, and collected. My children would look to me to bring calm and support in the midst of a crisis. And I did. I brought calm to all those around me.

I have had women walk up to me multiple times in the grocery store and start talking to me. And within a few minutes they are telling me their life’s story. And almost without fail, they stop and look at me and say, “You have such a peacefulness and calm about you.”

I have spent my life trying to hide the pain inside of me. And I am good, really, really good at it. Maybe some people noticed the hidden sadness. But no one suspected the life I lived behind closed doors in my first marriage. Not friends or family. I made him look very good. And he is still benefiting from that to this day.

I walked away from his family and mine. I didn’t want to talk about him or what he did. I just wanted to be safe and free. There was nothing inside of me to deal with other people’s opinion. And other than one sister, no one even asked.

Unfortunately, in my family of origin the typical dysfunction was huge. There is no close family or mutual love and respect. When you have already been beaten down, how do you return to or risk anything in that environment?

The reason why I think I may be a part of the problem is because it seems people have a hard time connecting with my pain because I am strong and articulate and hide it so well. I don’t want my feelings to be discounted anymore. I know I am strong, I can be a bad ass under incredible circumstances. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hurt or feel pain deeply. Mostly I withdraw and turn inward.

I don’t know if any of us suffer for a lack of knowing what to do. I think we suffer for a lack of compassion, of being heard, of having our feelings validated. For others being able to truly understand how painful, and hurtful, and difficult abuse can be.

I think we want someone to feel with us and just sit with us in our place of sorrow. It is so counter-intuitive to us as humans. But it is the best way to truly have someone feel heard, and loved, and accepted. And to find a compass for healing.

I don’t think we can ever feel loved, accepted, heard, or cared for without true compassion. We need someone to walk alongside of our pain and hurt without expectations or judgment. We want to be able to be vulnerable and to feel safe.

Too often we are trying to talk people out of what they are feeling rather than feeling their pain with them. It’s not like we don’t want to hear what others have to say, it’s just that it takes a lot to earn that place to be able to give advice. And we certainly don’t want to hear it without first knowing someone is concerned about how we feel.

As the following three minute video I share again below states, there is absolutely nothing you can say to make someone’s pain go away. But there is so much we can do to make someone feel loved and accepted. Words are only beneficial if they are words of empathy. Empathy is the language of grief, and sorrow, and suffering. Maybe we all need to learn a new language for ourselves and those we love.

I don’t know if I have fully reached a conclusion yet on what it is that I need. I am continuing to ask myself this question and I am still trying to figure it out. Maybe I just don’t know. Maybe I have lacked so much love and care and nurturing since I was a child. All I know is that words, even well meant words, can hurt without empathy.

On Empathy by Brené Brown
(a 3 minute video)

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22 thoughts on “​What Is It That I Need?

  1. I was in a similar situation many years ago, and my feelings reached a point of total desperation and an incompatibility with the world as I knew it. With a total lack of alternatives, I called a “help line” (Samaritans in the UK), and eventually met with one of their volunteers. I could not talk to friends and relatives, but I could talk with a total stranger who was non-judgemental and who was obviously only interested in getting me “back on track”. If I had to recount an experience over my (now) considerable years that had the greatest impact on my life, it would be meeting Philip (courtesy of Samaritans). Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Colin for sharing your story. And for sharing that you get this feeling. I am so glad that you found help in this way. It is interesting how much strangers can impact our lives. And a nice reminder that we could be “that” stranger for someone else too. Thank you!

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      1. One just never knows when that stranger will appear, or when we can perhaps be that stranger. We do know that sometimes we need to reach out, in either circumstance. Perhaps we need to reach out because we need support, or perhaps we feel that we can offer support. In both circumstances, hiding our feelings serve little purpose.

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  2. Your post had truly touched my heart. i want you to know that you are definitely NOT in any way alone! I have spent years and years searching for what it is that I need. I thought I would find it in relationships, and through many failed relationships I learned that “Like attracts Like”. i was broken (inside). Outside, my persona was the epitome of strength, courage and self-esteem. I, too have been approached by random strangers wherever I go and within moments knew their entire life story, usually ending in tears and asking for my “sage” advice as to what they needed. The irony, to this day still affects me. I had an epiphany one depressing rainy day..(this was during a self-imposed relationship restriction). It came in a flash and hit me like a “Doh” slap in the head. Had I not endured the abuses I had suffered in the past, I wouldn’t have a clue about empathy. I have always hidden my vulnerabilities. I have always been hyper-sensitive I do not show outwardly the deep sense of hurt that I feel when I feel I have been demeaned or disrespected. I have often felt like I was going to implode after allowing these hurts to fester inside of me and in fact have blown up several times over the years. (scaring the hell out of myself and anyone unfortunate enough to be near me).
    Today, I have found peace within, not all of the time mind you, but for long enough periods that I am able to connect with myself. During these times, I have learned a great deal about what makes me tick. With regard to the random strangers? What a blessing they have been. I now understand just how powerful the subconscious mind is. I have listened to scores of life stories told to me by strangers. I have FELT their pain, with empathy, (NOT sympathy, just to clarify). The gift I received from these situations took me years to understand: A window into myself.
    There are parts of my past that are extremely hard to face, even today. My way of dealing with these things (internalize) have woven their not so healthy threads into my everyday life. In order to truly heal. I have to “take the hem” out of the armor that I have worn for so long.These random strangers (I call them Angel Unawares) have each, through their own stories, shown me exactly how to find what I have been searching for…ME. Sorry this was so lengthy…My heart goes out to you but also it wants you to be aware of the fact that you are well on your way to YOU! (You are NOT alone)! Have a beautiful day, and NEVER give up! Thank you for your honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Your story does so much relate! Yes, I do believe my ability to feel others pain has definitely been deepened by the things that happened to me in my life. For that I can say, “Thank you heartache!” I don’t think difficulties or suffering necessarily make us more able to empathize. But they certainly are opportunities to learn empathy. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for your encouragement!

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  3. I am feeling this too. I don’t know what I need. Ever. And I cry about that too. Except no one has ever asked me that question either. But I wouldn’t have the answer either if they did. I have seen that video before. It’s such a good lesson. In the dark pit that I’m in, I just want to know I’m not alone and that someone cares. Your story about your family is very similar to mine. Thank you for sharing that. It helped me not feel so alone as I navigate my feelings around my situation. I appreciate your honesty so much. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing this! It seems to be an ongoing issue… a cry of the soul. I am sorry that you are struggling with this too. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone either! I hope you can find the love and care and empathy you need!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I can see that Lyn. It is very evident in your life, writing, and story. There seems to be a sting when people tell you that you are strong… no clue of the deep pain hidden inside. Always being strong can be exhausting. It ends up feeling like an expectation. When strength to us is survival. We are strong… but still in need of empathy! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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