When I was learning to speak Spanish, my trainer would correct me. every.single.time. That was her job right? One day I finally told her, “I want to learn Spanish. I want to know when I’m getting it wrong, but not all of the time. Sometimes I just want you to listen to my story.”
Can you relate? You know you have a problem, and you DO want to solve it, but sometimes you just want to talk about it. Sometimes you just want to complain about it. Sometimes you want to feel bad. You may not realize that you want to feel bad, because that’s crazy, right?? But we do. We WANT to feel all of the range of emotions. Talking about it can help us process the emotion, and understand the thoughts creating it.
However, sometimes we have a huge intolerance for negative emotion. We don’t even want other people to feel negative emotion. They’re crying and we say, “Don’t cry!” They’re mad and we say, “Don’t be mad!” We want to fix the “problem” that’s making them feel bad. We give advice so they can get over it.
We think we’re just trying to be kind and help them feel better, but what we’re saying is, “You’re feeling wrong.” What if they need to feel bad? What if the best thing for them is to feel a negative emotion? If we try to stop their pain instead of just listening to them talk about it, it could be like giving them a pain killer when something is really wrong. They won’t realize there’s something they need to pay attention to.
What if you were just there to help them feel their feelings instead of change them? What would that be like?