During the start of Covid-19 lockdown, a good friend in Singapore reached out to me. He told me that he was having a hard time with the whole isolation. I felt bad to hear that and offered him an advice to look at the bright side. Despite of it all, he was blessed with good life in Singapore.
The truth is I didn’t understand what he went through. The lockdown in Berlin was way lighter than what happened in Singapore. I could still go out and meet friends, I even went out to a few outdoor events. Despite of my good intention, my advice sounded more like an ill considered opinion toward his situation. Unknowingly I pushed him away from me. He stopped telling me about his pain.
So often when friends come to vent about their sufferings, my intuitive impulses drive me to cheer them up and to reorient them toward the lighthouses in their lives amid the darkness. Somehow, this tends to only deepen their helpless anguish and broaden the abyss between me and them.
Parker Parmer wrote in his essay.
The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.
Lately I realized that it is quite rare that we could talk somebody out of their pain. Maybe the best cure is to actually let things hurt.
Next time when a friend comes to me with her pain, this is what I will say:
“I am sorry that is happening to you. Do you want to tell me more about it?”