For a long time I’ve avoided sharing sad things about my past or sad feelings I’m having. I would sometimes have the urge to, but whenever I did I found it very …ungratifying. I am really not a reserved person and have many close relationships both with family and friends but the more experience I have gained in this area the less likely I have been to share such things.
I have found I don’t like advice or offers to help. I have found I don’t like sympathy…“that sounds really hard, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that” no matter how truly sincere. I don’t even like empathy! “something very similar to that happened to me and I felt very similarly, things like this suck” And I really don’t like that generally people feel and act awkward because they feel like they don’t know what to say and our whole conversation is derailed until we can get back on lighter footing.
All of which makes it very hard for me to respond when someone is sharing something sad with me because I know how bad all of the above makes me feel.
A while back Maastricht started this thread about not sharing personal issues with unhelpful family members. In my answer I said I usually didn’t because I almost never got a result that made me feel good.
Ever since that thread this issue has been mulling around in my head…was there any response I could get that I would like? Had I EVER gotten a response I liked?
I knew there was something about MandaJo’s answer in that thread about sharing things because she wanted her intimates to know what was going on with her that struck a chord in me.
In all my mulling I’ve finally realized that I want people to want to know me. If I shared something sad, like that my first baby died when she was four months old, I think I would like it if someone said something like:
“Oh my god, that’s so sad! Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I know it must be hard to talk about but now I feel I know another piece of you. Can I ask you more about it?”
The essential element there is the person actually expressing (and actually feeling) that they are glad to know me better. I think this is why therapy has always felt awful to me…because what I craved was actual human connection and the paying-for-it and we-are-only-talking-about-me aspects of therapy made that feel false or at least always under suspicion.
When I tried to remember any responses I’d liked the only ones I could think of were two friends who responded by asking a lot of curious questions…not quite
what I wanted but their curious questions did make me feel like they were interested in being connected with me. Both times I remember thinking the response was a little unusual…at least in the culture I live in, it could feel “prying” to some people, even though I liked it.
So there you go. Maybe it will be helpful to somebody else besides just me. I’ve really gotten some clarity writing it down here, so thanks!