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Secret Hurts of Not Being Understood
Nobody Is Getting It
"People understand me so poorly that that don't even understand my complaint about them not understanding me." ---- Soren Kierkegaard
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.
Well, we obviously have a communication problem since it seems to be 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. And all those screaming songs of the modern musical self-expression very much sound like a desperate begging for understanding.
The list could go on, involving more of those more subtle ways of people's doubting about their being understood. It could be just a prelude to a deep and nagging feeling of separation and a verdict of loneliness.
If We Only Knew Those Magic Words
"The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own." ---- Willa Cather
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.
Next to be mentioned are couples who both seem to go through some labor pains to find that secret language which works so well in those love novels. Instead, I see them so oftentimes playing that marital diplomacy---while not understanding what the hell the other one is 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 that we love so much? So we collectively made up all those practical strategies of niceness, including those plastic smiles, robot-like hugs with measured patting on the back. Good for us.
How About Understanding Ourselves Instead?
"Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens." ---- Louise L. Hay
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?
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.
What if They Don't Want to Be Like Us?
"I don't like that man. I must get to know him better." ---- Abraham Lincoln
Maybe the best way to approach this issue of the widespread lack of understanding would be to remind ourselves about the enormous existing lack of respect for individual, social, political, ethnical, racial, and religious differences. That alone could be the most likely among the stumbling blocks in human coexistence.
It's an undeniable fact that we like judging everyone using ourselves as a parameter of normalcy. We like everyone to be like ourselves, because somewhere in our survival software all those differences are interpreted as threats to our security. Then it pisses us big time when others don't comply.
Let me make a confession, so don't bother crucifying me for it, show some mercy, O.K.? Namely, there are times when I think how those folks in the Middle East actually like their status quo. Really, I mean it. When I think of all those liberated voices crying for our intervention---I compare them to all those pissed off voices in our Western, free establishment.
So, should someone come over with their military to save them? In my life experience I often got hit by the strange fact that people don't want to change---they are merely being regular, pissed off species who have to bitch about something. If you try to understand them and help them in their change, you turn out a bad guy. They won't admit that they didn't mean it, they will accuse you of sticking your nose where it's not its place.
Are you beginning to see how understanding may backfire? For, then you end up gaining some enemies as a reward for your goodwill---and now you are the one who could use some of that noble understanding.
Damn it---maybe it's better not to understand anybody, but try to better understand ourselves instead.
It Doesn't Take a Shrink to Befriend Ourselves
"Talk to yourself like a cherished friend. Treat yourself with love and care. You are perfect just as you are." ---- Amy Leigh Mercree
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.
I see a relationship as a mutual 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 blah...blah...blah...blah---and the mankind is still stuck at 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 strange to us---allowing.
Understanding Equals Allowing
"Accept all the good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it." ---- Sarah Dessen
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.