Sharing is caring… and healing too

Loving mind

Sree Mitra

February 13, 2024

Author: Dr Steve Hickman

There are very few moments in life when we, as humans, feel so alone as when we are suffering. When we are sad, grieving, anxious, afraid, angry or hurt, we so easily retreat into ourselves. It is certainly self-protective to withdraw at times, as if we are a turtle pulling into its shell in order to avoid the impact of painful conditions in our environment. There is a deep desire to hunker down until the storm passes and we can emerge, blinking, into the light of day. We’ve all been there.

But isn’t it ironic, that the one time that we could most benefit from support, encouragement, soothing or sympathy from others, we find ourselves pulling away from everyone else? We feel uniquely bad, as if this misfortune is a reflection on our own weakness or flaws, and our inner critic tells us all the things that are wrong about us and why we are unworthy of success, satisfaction, joy or love. Why do we do this to ourselves and what could we do differently to avoid that downward spiral of pain and shame that threatens to pull us deeply into our own suffering when we are going through hard times?

It’s important to remember that, fundamentally, humans are social beings. “Social” not in the sense that we like to hang out and socialize and have a good time (although, of course, most of us like doing that!) but social in the sense that we literally need each other to survive. We are born relatively helpless and need the care of a parent or other caregiver to get us the food, clothing and shelter we need. But even as we grow more “self-sufficient” as we mature, we rely on each other to get the things we need to survive and thrive throughout our lives in modern society.

In fact, we are so in need of connection to our fellow humans, that we are physiologically wired to fear being separated from the tribe or the human family in general. In generations past, our survival depended on being accepted and included in the group, so we are always on alert for signs that we might be separated or shunned, like the weakest deer in the herd when a predator approaches. Therefore, when we suffer or feel pain, we naturally fear that this is a sign that we will be disconnected from the safety of our human connection. Thus, our mind (and body) immediately goes to how we might be uniquely bad or weak or flawed.

But the thing is, every single one of us is essentially wired the same way, and we all simply want to be loved and feel connected! In those moments of grief, despair, shame or guilt, when we feel the most alone, we are actually sharing an experience that every single human on the planet has experienced in their lifetimes, usually several times over! This is an essential part of being human and your moment of suffering actually connects you in those moments when you feel least connected!

So what can be done about this? 

It all comes down to feeling safe and brave enough to share those moments so that others can hear and validate the pain and sadness and fear and shame that you are feeling. This is not an easy thing to do, although it is fairly simple. But what can help is to call to mind three different people in your life: someone you love, someone whom you know but may feel fairly neutral about, and even someone with whom you have some difficulty or tension. Hold them all in your mind’s eye and say to yourself:

  • These people have feelings, thoughts, and emotions, just like me.
  • These people, during their lives, have experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
  • These people have been sad, disappointed, angry or worried, just like me.
  • These people have felt unworthy or inadequate at times, just like me.
  • These people have longed for connection, purpose, and belonging, just like me.
  • These people want to be happy and free from pain and suffering, just like me.
  • These people want to be loved, just like me.

With a clear reminder of your shared humanity and all that that entails, it may ease your willingness to reach out to someone you love, someone who cares, or someone who is professionally equipped to listen and support you in the ways that you need.

In the moments when you feel most alone, you are actually experiencing what it means to be human and to have difficult times. Once you open this door of connection, the weight on your shoulders is a little bit lighter because you know that we all carry it to some degree. And wouldn’t it be nice to lighten your load?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *