How do you handle problems, cope with stress and difficult circumstances, or process grief? We are different in how we approach these things, and I realized I start by describing. In an almost postmortem fashion, I begin breaking it apart.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and I heard a phrase recently that turned a light on in one dark room of my heart. The phrase was, “describing to defend.”
I immediately stopped the interview, sat with the realization, and rewinded to catch it again. I learned I can explain why it happened, unearth the roots of the cause, trace back all contributing factors, and it hurts less—for a while, at least.
If I can understand where someone is coming from, why they are the way they are, the pain they cause seems less impactful. My natural curiosity, my desire to learn, my craving to understand others—they’re all useful traits.
However, they can delay the real work that needs to be done. It can stunt the necessary healing. Being able to categorize and explain doesn’t do away with anything, it just makes the stored trauma more organized.
There are good principles I’ve tried to include as I shape my paradigm of the world that I believe might have contributed to my misapplication:
They’re fantastic principles, but they can’t allow you to deny the grief work when pain enters your life. You still have to say, “That really hurt!” We don’t become immune or invincible by understanding the other. If anything, we may train ourselves to temporarily be numb as we await our own falling apart.
And outside of ourselves, if we become am impartial observer to what’s happening, we just might diminish our ability to truly empathize with the pain of others.
I caught myself recently trying to rationalize, explain, and answer someone who was struggling. I felt like I understood their situation, therefore, they needed my “knowledge.” They just needed me to listen.
Learn, share, repeat. It’s a process I’m committed to, and I appreciate you continuing to read along with the journey. I don’t express it enough, but I am tremendously grateful for all who have kept up with the blog over the years.
As a reminder, many of you have reached out via email, and I encourage those of you who haven’t to send some feedback my way. Did anything resonate with you? Are you learning something right now? Do you agree or disagree? Whatever it might be, this is your space.
Peace and blessings!
Books I recommend: