When someone tells us something that’s hard to hear or that suggests that they’re in pain or upset, it’s natural for us to jump to wanting to fix the issue or to convey that our belief is that everything is (or will be) okay.
But often, when we jump to reassuring or solving, it can feel horrible to the person we love. In sessions, when I ask the person in pain to honestly respond to their partner with how it feels to be reassured, I often hear:
“I’m wrong for feeling this way.”
“You don’t understand.”
“You want me to stop talking about this.”
“You are judging me. (You think I’m silly, stupid, indulgent, crazy…).”
It feels alienating, disconnecting and, sometimes, it can bring up feelings of rejection and shame.
My assignment for you:
The next time someone you love tells you they are hurting, notice your response.
Are you drawn to reassure them?
Do you feel the impulse to tell them that their experience is not your experience?
Do you start problem-solving?
Just try to observe your response – without judgement – and, if you can, take a moment to let your loved one know that you hear them.