A wall I have never run into before. It was as if I was standing where I have stood so many times before, on the threshold of defending my way, existence, or reason for responding to the situation the way I was. I was hurt, and I felt the need to validate that for some reason….but how? Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?
In the past, at this point in the argument I would have made the effort with all of my intellectual might to try to explain my perspective, and come out the other side feeling understood, vindicated, and right.
Not today. Today, I had a realization. I realized at that moment that this was simply going to be a waste of my time, energy, breath, words and could make the situation worse.
Truly, how could I begin to explain to the person I have known for 3 years how 48.5 years of life experience has dictated how I am responding to this particular conflict? Even if I could share my perspective, every detail of my experience over the course of nearly 5 decades which have carved every scar on my body, soul and mind, how could I truly get my perspective across? Even if it were possible to share my entire history, how could this person ever really understand and feel the culmination of complex thoughts and feelings which I am experiencing now. Impossible! Why even try?
And so, in that moment I said it “you could never understand”. Not only could he never understand my perspective, how would I begin to form sentences from words which definitions we may not even see eye to eye on.
Herein lies the challenge of true intimacy. Not only can one not understand where you are coming from due to their infinitesimal perspective of the culmination of your life experiences, but the words we are using to share these thoughts, feelings, and experiences are skewed from one person to another. And, as little as they can truly comprehend about your version of reality is equally imperceptible on the other side. This is where assuming we know and understand another person is a preposterous notion. We may know someone more than another someone…but how much do we really know?
Impossible. Why even try? At my school in our class Communication Skills, we explore the common phrase “I know how you feel”. When examined a bit deeper, this phrase is completely assumptive and dismissive to a person’s feelings and experience. We don’t really know how someone feels. Even if a client’s dog has died, and you have had a dog die you DON’T know how this person FEELS. You can IMAGINE how they feel, but you do not KNOW. “I can only imagine how difficult this is for you” is a much more compassionate option when responding to a person’s sharing of difficulty.
Back to my relationship challenge, I started to wonder what I could share with my friend by simply sitting with him and saying nothing. I considered and imagined that. What if I just sat there looking at him? Is it possible he would understand more if I just shut my face hole and just sat there, in silence, sharing what words can never convey? Then in my mind’s eye I saw myself reach out and touch his hand with my hand. What could I share with him by this simple act? If I looked him in the eye, and did not say anything, and then, reached out and touched his hand. Would this be more effective in the resolution of conflict than my normal effort of defending myself, my life, my perspective, my existence, my ego and my righteousness with MY words?