I’ve seen a lot of personal attacks in some online communities, particularly in the chronic pain community.
I have been the brunt of this many times when people make assumptions about me off of a few 100 words. In some of these verbal assaults, I’ve been described as not mindful and “not a good psychologist.”
I was accused of making blanket statements and that I don’t know what I’m talking about concerning pain patients—ouch.
This can feel quite devastating as I am a pain patient, a pain psychologist, and strive to provide a safe space for my patients to be heard and feel understood.
I am part of this community. I am in moderate to severe pain 24/7. I have a rare disease that causes widespread havoc to my body in ways others may not even be able to imagine.
When I write, I speak from the heart. I do not pretend to speak for all pain patients or make generalizations. I speak to my experiences and what I have learned from my patients—yet the keyboard warriors go to war.
If posts or comments don’t add up to their individual experiences, they lash out, and some of them are aiming to bring others down at all costs. Often attacking someone’s being without knowing a single thing about them.
I have sometimes found it difficult not to engage with these types of comments. At times, I feel like I have to defend myself and my honor.
Intellectually, I know this is a waste of my time and limited energy. I also understand that what matters most is what my patients, loved ones, and myself think of me—not strangers on the internet.
Most of the time, I am able to stop before typing away a response and just breathe. Sometimes I engage and then spiral into obsessing about the comments. One hundred supportive comments can fade into the abyss, and those two fiery comments can take a front-row seat. Brains are funny like that.
When I am able to step back and not make it about me, I recognize the pain that lies behind these comments.
I recognize the abandonment, hurt, trauma, fear, gaslighting, loneliness, and misunderstandings that these people might have experienced. I then try to humbly place my ego in the backseat, lean in, and try to let go of it.
Those words are not about me. They are words manifesting possibly from decades of suffering.
While this doesn’t excuse anyone’s rude or aggressive behavior, this perspective can make the blows feel less heavy, less like a personal attack.
As I continue to write more articles, this is something that I strive to do: to mindfully recognize my own headspace when reading comments before responding.
It is up to me to decide how much of my time and emotions I invest into these comments.
It’s a beautiful thing that we have the power of choice. May we choose to expend our (chronically limited) energy wisely.