Since writing about trusting our kids emotions, I've been thinking more about the difficulty of staying present with people in pain. If we can manage to stay, we can support growth and healing, but how can we sit by while someone hurts?
Think of your own experience – haven't you had a moment when you're so upset that there's no reigning in that strong emotion. You know that what you need before anything else is to feel the pain and possibly be supported that you're not crazy to feel the way you do, before any possibility of solving anything or moving on can happen. That moment that someone connects with you and lets you know you're not alone is a relief. You just need some acceptance before you can gather your strength to move forward.
Staying present with our kids when they're flooded with anger or sadness can help them reach that point of problem solving, however, most of us have little experience simply being with someone in pain, so we try to solve, fix or minimize the emotion.
Learning to Stay and Not Try to Fix
To put it into perspective, I think about the births of my children – for me labor was a time when my prime need from my husband was his presence. I wanted him next to me, but no – not really talking to me, touching me or trying to make me feel better. I was all body, all feeling – pain, sound, and the occasional very short sentence if I desperately needed something.
This was not a pain he could solve or explain away and he was watching his wife deal with feelings and physical sensation he couldn't even imagine.
It is hard to witness and be able to do nothing for a person in pain. It feels like you're powerless.
As the person in pain, however, I was busy doing my part and he was not powerless- I just wanted to know he was there. That was his part and it was enough. It was powerful for me to have him near.
Just being present for someone hardly seems like it can be enough, but I know that in that moment, having that person I love so deeply nearby gave me strength, focus and a feeling of safety. At that moment his pure presence was all I needed.
Being Present for Emotional Pain
Could it be that emotional pain is not so different? That our simple presence is a powerful support to those we love?
Is it frightening to think that we're that powerful? That just by being near and being there with those we love, we change their world?
It means big things.
It means admitting we're needed.
It means letting go of control of others – realizing that if we're going to be present we're going to have to ride out the emotional storm and practice acceptance instead of trying to control what someone else is feeling.
It means we must be brave and trust that the people we love are doing their part. We have to trust that they are also powerful, and they can handle scary things.
It means noticing the scary, confusing or unwelcome feelings that well up in us when we witness other's emotions – and bit by bit looking those emotions in the face and asking where they've come from.
It means admitting not only that we're needed, but admitting that we may be in need as well. In need of love, acceptance and care for ourselves.
You have the power to heal.
When I'm sad or angry, and I'm in the grip of that emotion, the first thing I need is simple safety to feel the ugly and overwhelming emotion. Our children need this too.
Even if the reason I'm feeling bad is my own fault, I can't even hear reason until I've gone through that pain. Once I've incorporated this new painful realization a bit more,then I can take responsibility, make change, grow, heal.
Our presence is truly healing. You can give this presence to the people you love. You are that powerful, and that needed, because you're the one who will stay.
All my best,