How to Stop That Secret Hurting for Not Being Understood
People understand me so poorly that they don't even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.
-- Soren Kierkegaard
Nobody Is Getting It
Despite the fact that our Western culture is known for a free self-expressiveness---unlike in certain theocratic societies---a closer empathetic look may reveal the strange truth about a predominant feelings of not being understood by those folks of our life. Why is that?
For a few little illustrations, here we have folks using profanities as if to make their point get across as convincing as possible. Also, as we talk on our cell phone, we are not even slightly aware how ridiculous we look while gesturing with hands---like the person on the other side of the line will get it better that way. And we resort to wars, because the other side doesn't get it.
Art and music are so charged with a plea for others' missing understanding.
Well, we obviously have a communication problem, since it seems so complicated to get it -- or to be understood. We also write poetry spilling all our sentiment into every verse in a hope someone may discover the depth of our soul.
Along with all those screaming songs of the modern musical expression very much reminding of a desperate begging for understanding.
The list could go on, including those more subtle ways of people expressing their doubt about being understood. It could be just a prelude to a deep and nagging feeling of a separation and a verdict of loneliness.
The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own.
-- Willa Cather
If Only We Knew Those Magic Words
Not necessarily the most typical to be mentioned first---the so called generation gap is just as prevalent feature within families these days as it used to be in those more conservative times. Nobody seems to understand anybody there, and behind many a slammed door is this lack of feeling understood.
We could see on so many faces how they are cooking in their own oil of a frustrated emotionality hanging in there like some classified information. No one seems to find those magic words that would affect some sincerity in that apparently empathetic nodding of a friend, or a parent, or a close coworker.
People have become such experts at faking their understanding one another.
Next to be mentioned are those couples who both seem to go through some labor pains of finding that secret language which works so well in those love novels and movies.
Instead, I see them so oftentimes playing that marital diplomacy -- while not understanding what the hell is the other talking about. And why. Doesn't it make you wonder at times, why we are so saturated with our own emotional garbage, that we can't accommodate a crapload or two from those we love so much?
So we collectively made up all those practical strategies of niceness, including those plastic smiles, robot-like hugs with well measured patting on backs.
Good for us.
Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
-- Louise L. Hay
How About Understanding Ourselves Instead?
Then, of course, it turns into something hilarious with all kinds of shrinks stepping onto the stage, with that all-knowing air of importance of a paid surrogate for a mom or dad who never bothered to listen, let alone understand. Who are they kidding by offering a shoulder to cry on? Well, the statistics of their rate of success could inspire you to rather buy a punching bag the next time you feel not understood.
Now, let's get to the meat of the issue, how about it? Wouldn't you agree with me that this "lack of understanding" is actually something of a normal outcome of our enormous individual differences? And somewhere near the bottom line of it---isn't all that secret outcry a symptom of our rather mediocre effort to understand ourselves? Why not consider it as a possibility at least, before some self-honesty kicks in with some evidence?
Not seeing the proverbial tree for the forest? -- or ourselves for our crowded world?
Maybe this collective consciousness generated naturally by this shoulder-to-shoulder human density created an illusion of everyone having to be on the same emotional page.
Are others really obligated to read our minds -- or it would be just fine if we met somewhere half way to create a constructive chemistry of mutuality that would satisfy the definition of our relationship?
Here I go asking a lot of questions like some zen master hoping that readers may see the answers hiding within those koan puzzles.
Talk to yourself like a cherished friend. Treat yourself with love and care.You are perfect just as you are.
-- Amy Leigh Mercree
It Doesn't Take a Shrink to Befriend Ourselves
How many times did you get in a situation when you had to say: "Am I speaking Chinese here?" It's an old adage that words sound different in mouth and in ears. We naturally process others' appearance, behavior, and words in our own unique way.
That's why we invented agreements and common sense---as if that should help in understanding why your teenage son suddenly wants a tattoo of a large bat on his back.
As I mentioned earlier, we are not making a decent effort to understand our own intimate world, our own needs for self-love, self-acceptance, and self-respect. Then, being emotionally starved in that department, we are dumping the responsibility for all that right on the lap of those close to us---sometimes on our leaders as well. Suddenly, nobody understands our needs.
An angry dude won't bother digging into his emotional files to understand what's pissing him off so much about authorities. If he did, he might discover that he hasn't been the best father to his son, and now he is projecting his unconscious guilt onto anybody of some authority, because, of course, that guilt looks much better on them.
It doesn't really take a degree in psychology to understand our inner hurts. As a matter of fact, we are the ones most called upon to make some sense out of our emotional mess, because we know ourselves best. It takes some honesty, that's all.
It's not about minimizing differences, but bridging them successfully.
I see a relationship as a mutual sweet effort to bridge individual differences -- not to deny them, ignore them, or not allow them by imposing our own ways. There is a whole world of difference between our individual intimate realities, a world of different contents, forms, and intensities in apparently similar emotional repertoire.
Even those closest to us are a sort of an enigma, and we should never mistake bridging those differences for something like understanding. Think for a moment how many books have been written about happiness, tolerance, harmony, love, peace, and the rest of the blah...blah...blah...blah -- and the mankind is still stuck with the first blah.
We simply don't seem to get it. Why? Because, according to those books we would have to do a lot of something so strange to our nature -- allowing.
Accept all good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.
-- Sarah Dessen
Understanding Equals Allowing
Indeed, folks, maybe it's time to junk the illusion of understanding each other, and start doing something about finding out who we are, in which ways we are different, and how to allow all those differences in this world to be.
The sooner we understand that others have a right to be who they are, the sooner we will be giving ourselves the same freedom. In some old book I read about the so called identity trap, meaning our trying to live up to someone else's standards, or expecting them to live up to our own.
At the end of the day, understanding others means allowing them to be who they are. We can't play mind-readers to tune into their intimate technology of experiencing. The very way we see ourselves is different from the way they see us. Even though we may have the same default way of experiencing something as green, a sight of a green meadow is not the same in our two sets of eyes.
And when we write a poem in a hope that someone will discover our depths---we are deceiving ourselves, because we have only provided something deep that will make others discover their own depths. Then they may say how they understood you.
No, they didn't---and now it's left to us to get it.
Love Not Unswered
© 2017 Val Karas