If you share your pain, you risk three possible responses:
- So what?
- Deal with it.
- Prove it.
And, there are other possibilities:
- You gain sympathy, which is different from pity
- Others agree there is injustice here, and they will work with you against it.
I feel better after sharing my pain if someone says, yes, that should not have happened. You were wronged. That was a mistake. They should have known better.
Eventually I deal with my pain. I suffered sustained bullying at work for six months. I can describe it mostly unemotionally now. It stripped me of self-confidence at the time. It was more than ten years ago. Yet the first three responses leave me vulnerable. If I describe what happened, I want my hearer to accept what I say. Challenges reopen the wounds.
My poet friend said that when she had processed pain, she could use it in her art. She can go on stage and express the feelings which the incidents evoked, and communicate them to an audience- an authentic theatrical experience, a whole room feeling with the performer- because she has processed it. She cannot until she has processed it. The healed pain can be catharsis for the hearers. We feel with the performer, and deal with our own pain, or, we feel with her and gain empathy, gain a broader understanding of what it is to be human.
Yesterday I knelt to meditate, and thought, what am I feeling? Hope. I immediately started second-guessing it. It is after playing Metamorphosis III, which rather than being bright and beautiful is the blaring bombast of the Dictator. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; maybe it is an arrangement of chords which can be interpreted as you wish, the harsh sun on the desert or a unique move not in other music. I felt hope, and possibly it was authentic.
Yet sharing pain, at whatever risk, can bring together opposite sides. We see the other as human. There they are, doing their best under difficult circumstances, and our heart goes out to them.
Amos Oz was a child in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, and he was a child hurling stones at soldiers with rifles. It was, he said, the first Intifada, which translates as “shaking off”. Now children throw stones at soldiers, and their oppression is his oppression.
I want to make the thing that hurt me impossible, so that I will never again feel that hurt. It cannot be done. As long as we are alive we may be crushed. I want to heal your hurt without sublimating myself.
Dammit. Put down the shield of your rage! The shell crushes and isolates even as it protects.