One of the most uncomfortable feelings we experience is someone else’s hurt, pain, and suffering.
A more accurate way of saying that would be, “one of the most uncomfortable feelings we experience is our perceived hurt, pain, and suffering of another.”
We desire to help, support, and make their discomfort stop. We want them to feel better about themselves, the situation, and where they are at that moment.
This may stir up some undesirable feelings in ourselves—a sense of helplessness or like we don’t know exactly what to say to make them feel better.
My most recent article caused some of this discomfort.
I got many, many, many emails in response to me writing this piece. All of which had the intention of being helpful. For example, someone wrote, “To those who say you can’t give from an empty cup, you know that is pure bullsh*t—because you have given and given and given and given, and you have no idea what a drop in your cup even feels like.”
Another one was, “We’re never an empty cup. We might just feel we are, but we are coming from love and we are love. That has no beginning nor end. It’s our mind that is exhausted and which thinks we’re empty.”
Though I appreciate the support and the intention to help me through my discomfort, both messages tried to tell me how I should be feeling rather than accepting my emotions as they were.
To allow another to feel exactly as they feel without needing for it to be different takes a lot of practice. It is hard, but in many cases, it is exactly what is needed. I don’t need words of kindness or “sorries” or “Angela, be happy. It’ll be okay” or “You should feel this way in that situation.” All I need is one simple action.
For us to know with certainty that feelings are feelings. They are not right; they are not wrong. They are simple truths. And, to allow a truth to be fully experienced is to allow the individual who feels it to move beyond it.
Trying to tell someone that their “feeling is wrong” makes them push down the truth while simultaneously piling a “more desirable” immediate feeling on top of what already is there. It does not remove the truth of what exists beneath.
The harm comes later when eventually the rage and frustration of all those pent up emotions (which have been pushed down) must come out.
Our heart’s desire is to help, or so we tell ourselves.
The truth is, our mind wants to fix them so that our own heart does not hurt.
My response to the message from the individual above was this:
“While I know and appreciate your intention, what I can share is that to ever tell someone how they feel is not true is part of the problem. When you can allow others to feel as they do without needing to change it, you are giving a gift that is truly supportive. I can speak to the mind all day long. The spiritual ego is huge and when we are uncomfortable with others feeling the way they feel, that spiritual ego jumps in to try and fix them/it. All is perfect as it is, including feeling like your cup is empty.
I’m going to be very straight and very frank and very unemotional about this, in hopes that you may reconsider your approach with a person who you hope to support through difficulties. When people survive traumas, cups are empty and no amount of spiritual bypassing or fluff can change that.
I acknowledge that the intention of these messages was pure, however, the lasting effects of your words may cause harm.”
Take a moment. How often have you wanted someone to stop feeling how they feel, how often have they shared their heart with you, only for your mind to say “no, no, don’t feel like that”?
Maybe it was a comment about how they felt about their body, relationships, work, or financial situation. It can be about any area of life.
Notice the moments that you want to take away what you feel as discomfort as they talk. Instead, allow them to feel their emotions as they are.
Become curious as to how that actually feels inside of yourself. Ask yourself where is it that I actually feel like this in my own life.
There is a piece of yourself that you are disassociating from. You do not want to see it, feel it, or think about it. Your desire is to feel “good,” that is normal, it is human, it is the age-old mind doing what it has always done. There is nothing for you to do about it, just notice it and become curious.
When a person shares with you what you perceive to be undesirable, rather than telling them in so many words that they are wrong or that they should not feel that way, ask questions.
When someone says, “My cup is empty.”
Rather than saying, “No, it’s not. It never is; it only feels like it.”
Ask, “What are the things that will begin to fill it up?”
When someone says, “There is nothing to live for in this life.”
Rather than saying, “Yes, there are, and this is why…”
Ask, “What would it take to make you feel like choosing to live?”
When someone says, “I am ugly.”
Rather than saying, “No, you’re not. I love your eyes.”
Ask, “What makes you feel beautiful?”
I know our intentions are pure, and that we desire to help others. With more mindfulness and a deep willingness to allow another to be right where they are, our desire to help can be received by the other, and indeed, it might just help.