I think we all have a tendency to feel, at certain times, that whatever happens to us ONLY happens to us. And we dwell on that discomfort or that pain and wonder how we’re ever going to get through it, and sometimes it would be easier, or at least lighter, to overcome when we tell our woes to other people and we discover that we are not alone in our suffering.
But sometimes this becomes a load of many, many years, in which you train yourself, nay, convince yourself that you are really alone in the world. And you learn to carry your emotional weight, your sorrows, your anger, the abandonment, rejection, hopelessness, all by yourself, without anyone ever knowing.
Because, who would care? Perhaps you have opened yourself to others before and they have broken your heart. You were brave and opened yourself and they stomped on your feelings and on your dreams. Perhaps you offered your love to someone and that someone just took it and put it in the bin.
And thus you learned that the safest bet was to keep everything to yourself. And then it comes to a point where you don’t even notice that you’re doing it. Sometimes you even believe that you are sharing yourself with others but the truth is you are not.
In my life, I have perfected the art of listening to others and making them feel understood. I found this to be much easier than to open up about my feelings. Plus people have always seemed to trust me. And I enjoy listening to others, I enjoy trying to help others to overcome their problems and to find solutions and happiness.
Until there came a time when I started to feel, each time more strongly, that I was worn out. I had done my share of helping others and I had not helped myself. But it went farther than helping myself, I got myself into relationships, of different kinds, with people who were. unable to give love, or solace, or understanding, or support. And the more I helped, the more I gave of myself, the more depleted I felt, and still I had no one to talk to about these issues.
Some people might say that I am expecting things from a friend that I should only expect from a therapist of some sort. I don’t agree with this at all. It’s true that a “normal” friend (not a psychologist or therapist or coach of some sort) will not have learnt specific tools to aid me in my problems, but it is also true that true friendship is pure love and commitment to another person.
A friend should be willing to listen, to understand and to support. Notice I didn’t say SHOULD BE ABLE TO. They just have to be willing. But we just find ourselves pretending to listen to the other person while we are focused on ourselves. Not so long ago, I was talking to a friend about a problem I had just had that made me really angry. She didn’t let me finish and started telling me about a problem with her children. I am sure that this must have been a big problem for her, but the fact that she was not listening to me PLUS I was supposed to listen to her and give her advice, made me so angry that I really stopped listening. She couldn’t even read my body language. I sat back on the chair, crossed my arms and started to look for the waiter and went on to tell her I had to leave.
Whatever happened to listening to a friend who needs us? Friendship is an exchange. It is not a therapy session, where I pay one hour and the therapist listens to me. Friendship is give and take. But sometimes some people do all the giving, and others do all the taking.
This is an important topic to explore because this imbalance in relationships is what destroys many of them and also leads many of those who help people to withdraw or to begrudge the time or energy they spend on others. And this is a really sad situation because what we need more of in this world is love, and compassion.
And why should people assume that just because you help others you should do it for free? And yes, I mean money, but we also need time, someone who listens to us, someone who can helps us process the pain that we absorb from the world. This doesn’t mean it has to be just one friend. All the people around you can help you do it. But we all need to commit ourselves to supporting our network of people. Because we all need a healer, but healers also need to be healed.