Being there for others might be easier than you think.
We cannot be responsible for preventing loved ones from experiencing pain, nor can we take the pain away. What can we do? We can help them feel less alone. Acceptance of the emotions, and support from others makes a difference. As parents, helpers, partners, spouses, and friends, we often wish we could make the pain disappear, but we cannot. Trying to convince someone that they’re not feeling pain, that they’re fine, might sound like positive thinking, but it can actually cause greater distance in relationships, and leave others feeling isolated or misunderstood. People need to know that they have others there for them, if things aren’t “fine”. Allowing someone to feel, can help someone in their process. People need to know that you do not expect their lives to be perfect, that your own life was never perfect, and that your life is not perfect now.
We have, within us, a full range of emotions (and experiences). No one can have or does have only positive, fulfilling experiences or interactions. There are pleasurable, thrilling, exciting, joyful times, and there is frustration, pain, disappointment, mistakes, failure, and heartbreak. Anything that exists for anyone is worth addressing. By addressing another’s disappointment or pain, we actually normalize it. This starts the process of acceptance of the person and their emotion and/or reaction. Normalizing the pain of others, by acceptance, helps to decrease the stigma that surrounds these negative emotions and experiences. At the same time, support that individuals get from others, and the process of acceptance, decreases isolation for all that feel afflicted with real emotions- all of us. It is not just a certain some. It is every individual that experiences difficulties, disappointment, and failure at, even, unexpected times.
The greater the vulnerability, the greater the intimacy, within any relationship, whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a parent-child relationship. The greatest source of intimacy, is demonstrated by a high level of vulnerability and honesty. In an effort to strengthen your relationships you must break down any barriers to truth. You must allow for these negative emotions (anger, disappointment, and shame), and negative experiences (failures and mistakes), to exist and be shared with one another. Creating the comfort for loved ones to feel, be, express, and be accepted at the same time is the goal. A big part of creating the comfortable environment for others to feel negative emotions, is allowing them to see and hear yours as well. This normalizes it, creates comfort for those struggling, and allows for a connection. Relaying the wisdom that -we also have felt negative emotions, and have had disappointments, provides validation to those, who may, otherwise, have been isolated. Breaking the stigma around the expression of negative experiences, such as mistakes or failure, decreases isolation for those hurting, and allows them to receive support, and be connected with others.