Childhood: I was never very good at expressing myself growing up. It wasn’t necessarily my introversion so much as there was rarely a good outlet. There was always a bit of a disconnect between my parents and me. They are very smart, serious people who worked long hours when I was growing up. To help take care of my sister and me, we had a caretaker who was an outlet for any childhood grievances we had and I would see our parents late at night. It worked pretty well until we outgrew our caretaker and lost that outlet.
When you spend time with people you rarely see, particularly if they care about you and you care about them, you don’t want to fill up the conversation with anything negative. You want to tell them good things about yourself and your life so that they don’t spend their time worrying about; so that they are happy. That’s what I did with my family, particularly my parents.
Thankfully there was rarely a problem and whenever one arose, I dealt with it myself and though it was sometimes difficult, it worked and my parents continued to think things were fine. We lived happily in this dynamic; it was the norm and it worked for us. However, trouble arose when I experienced a grievance that I couldn’t contain on my own. I noticed it slowly affecting my life, changing my habits and general mood. But I still didn’t want to, or feel comfortable, reaching out for help.
Why I wouldn’t share: I didn’t like sympathy. I didn’t want people to feel bad about me or for me. I just wanted to have good times, make happy memories, and ignore the problem until it went away. A huge part of it was that I didn’t feel like it was my place to feel bad. I’m very aware of all the horrible things going on in the world and felt that the problems of someone as fortunate as me held little to no merit in comparison. So I continued to bury the problem deep down and continued to grow more and more sullen.
Finally sharing: I probably would have continued struggling on my own for months if it hadn’t been for one of the new friends I made freshman year. I had tried to open up once or twice before but I wasn’t able to genuinely express my feelings and it was met with “hey, sorry you’re going through a rough time, have a beer.” However, it was different when he and I talked.
He opened up first and shared a recent time in his life where he was truly at his lowest. He told his story with great emotion and openness. My unhappiness stemmed from a similar source so I was able to empathize with him and his plight. Seeing how open he was about his past problem made me feel comfortable opening up and sharing my grief as well, that it was the only way I might feel better.
So I opened up to him. I felt comfortable giving into my vulnerability because he had made himself vulnerable and I was able to open up and not only share what was causing me grief but also confront it myself. I was able to do this because of his ability to empathize.
Resolution: It was only because of this that I was able to face a major emotional boundary that I didn’t realize I had, my parents. I hadn’t wanted to drag them into my problems but if I had not come to them with my grief, I would not have been able to begin the long process of facing the issue at hand and working through it.
Image Source: http://upliftconnect.com/six-habits-highly-empathic-people/