brobbitt

Empathy, Sympathy Or Directive When Supporting You Choose

64 posts in this topic

Hi Dan,

"I think one day at a time is the most anyone can do. And the best thing anyone can do -- survivor or secondary. I had a tear, too."

Yes, and as a secondary you need empathy too, you have your own hole to deal with, I wondered who is there to offer you a hand :o(

"I think for me what is hardest -- I am trying to be the # 3, the empathic person -- is when the person is in a hole so deep and terrifying that she strikes out -- and wounds me -- or all she can see around her are dark things from a past memory, and she can't tell the difference between them & me, for a little while. "

At times like this I almost felt like I was doing more harm than good, adding to the pain, my wifes and my own, not knowing what was right and what was wrong :o(... but the thing that saves the day, the thing that overcomes is the fact that we keep coming back and trying to give that empathy. There will be movement if you continue to try, it may be slow and it may sometimes feel like going backwards, but movement and healing and a feeling of acceptance none the less. Maybe the empathy at this stage is about it being ok for your partner just to be in the hole, to feel safe there, to know that when she needs you that you are there to offer the hand she needs...:o( I really felt for you in theses moments Dan, because it is so very very difficult!

"It must be terrifying to be a survivor, to not always be able to tell the difference between past and present."

Yes, but also possible that it is terrifying for you too maybe? I know it was for me at times...

"You reach your hand into the pit -- but sometimes she doesn't know if the hand is there to help or to hurt her."

Over time she will develope and learn to take the hand that is offered more often - there is no such thing as bad empathy, just being there without judgement, without facade, willing to help, is empathy in itself ...

"I have to realize that it's not me she's defending herself against. That can be hard."

Yes, very hard, as she may (and mostly unknowingly) transfer her feelings on to you (this is called 'transference') when she needs to lash out.. the fact that she has the space to do this can be healing in itself, because she may have lived a life time of not being able to do this, of internalising and holding the painful feelings in :o(...you give her a platform where she feels safe to be herself, what a beautiful gift!

Dan, I wondered if you had read the book 'the courage to heal' ?, there is much help and understanding in this for both you and your partner I think..

Brian

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You know the game where you blindfold someone and stand them on a plank - then you lift the plank and tap things on their head to make them think it's the ceiling or the lightshade etc and they freak at being so high up?

I wonder if there is an equivalent game with holes because I have a hunch that this hole isn't as deep as I think it is.

Edited by foxy

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Yep, the hole is only as deep as you decide to make it. Your astuteness in this (as usual) doesn't surprise me, it normally comes as a result of healing and beginning to see things differently. The more you see, the less deep the hole becomes, you can climb out when ever you dare to :o)

Brian

You know the game where you blindfold someone and stand them on a plank - then you lift the plank and tap things on their head to make them think it's the ceiling or the lightshade etc and they freak at being so high up?

I wonder if there is an equivalent game with holes because I have a hunch that this hole isn't as deep as I think it is.

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for me personally i'm a little afraid of getting out of the hole (i know that sounds stupid). the hole if familiar, i know every bumbp, crack, and dark corner...beginning to heal is uncharted territory for me. i feel more anxiety now that i am letting people in and seeking help than i did when i was alone in my hole. in the hole i had control. when i disclose to someone that control is gone. i have forever altered the way that they will see me, scary prospect. i've spent sooooo much time and energy into cultivating the "i'm fine, how are you?" mask that letting it go is daunting.

the leadership at our church is men whose attitude toward healing is mostly directive or directed, i'm sorry, i forgot what it was called. which for me personally was almost hurtful because i interpreted it as a just get over it attitude.

after finding this board and the people who are so wise in their counsel and compassionate in their responses i can feel myself coming out of the hole (again, not that this a comfortable feeling) taking the hands of so many who have come before and being able to reach behind me is such a powerful thing.

well, to make a long story even longer :blush: i have gone to the leadership of our church given my testimony and asked that money be allocated in the budget for training so that we can better help not just our church members, but people in the community.

what amazed me is that after these people "found out about me" they still liked me, listened to me, asked me to lunch, laughed at my lame jokes, and looked me in the eyes, in short, nothing changed...with the exception that when i'm having a tough time they are aware that it might go beyond the fact that my 3 year old isn't potty trained.

we are now looking at what we as a church body can do to minister to the secondary survivors, but there doesn't seem to be much guidance out there.

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I don't mean to put a damper on things. Overall, this is a really positive thread. I feel compelled to say that for a long time I didn't know I was in a hole. One day not that long ago, I realised it. I have tried to dig my way out or come up with some plan to get out. I thought I did not need or even want help. I should be able to get out all by myself. The more I try the larger the hole becomes. It is now a "black hole"...so immense. Lately, no amount of empathy or perspective changes it. I am frustrated and overwhelmed. So, I guess I am no help here. No idea why I felt the need to say that.

Just my thoughts. I hope I can respond differently in time. I admire everyone here who has been able to offer support and recognize what they need. Personally, I have no idea at this point what would help me!!

Sorry if this sounds rather confusing and has gotten off topic a bit.

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O.K...

I think I was just venting. Feel free to disregard my comments. :P

I am embarrased that I actually sent that. I think the hole thing my have struck a nerve. Don't mind me...

Carry on- :duh:

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Hi Becky,

"I don't mean to put a damper on things."

You haven't! Your comments are good ones!

"I feel compelled to say that for a long time I didn't know I was in a hole. One day not that long ago, I realised it."

and a painful realisation from the sound of it :o(

"I have tried to dig my way out or come up with some plan to get out. I thought I did not need or even want help. I should be able to get out all by myself. The more I try the larger the hole becomes. It is now a "black hole"...so immense."

It feels like things feel pretty hopeless at the moment :o( ...whats hapening for you? Can you talk about it ?

"Lately, no amount of empathy or perspective changes it. I am frustrated and overwhelmed. So, I guess I am no help here. No idea why I felt the need to say that. "

Well maybe because things feel so hopeless for you at the moment, you dont feel in the right inner place to help others right now? and thats ok! its also very human..

"Personally, I have no idea at this point what would help me!!"

Maybe just some time to 'simply be' then? but here if you ever want to talk about it!

"Sorry if this sounds rather confusing and has gotten off topic a bit."

Here , in this place, I think everything is relevant, everything says a lot about where the writer is situated in their lives in the moment of writing and so I dont think it is possible to go off topic. The things you say above are very profound in terms of how you feel right now and that is more than good enough and adds loads of value :o)

Brian

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I dont mind you! Think your comments are really good ones and I could never disregard them because they say so much about the decent human being you are!

Brian

O.K...

I think I was just venting. Feel free to disregard my comments. :P

I am embarrased that I actually sent that. I think the hole thing may have struck a nerve. Don't mind me...

Carry on- :duh:

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Thanks for understanding. :blush:

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Sorry to bump this up. I find this really interesting. My Psychologist uses person centered therapy. I myself know i am very empathic towards people. Sometimes i feel like i have too much, if that is possible.

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I think I'm a but of all three I honestly hate it when my T tells me back to me what I am feeling cause I just get this "no sh*t" feeling inside of me, and I appreciate any advice that is given to me that is sound and respectful, I don't normally want or ask for hugs but I try to give them freely if others need them. So I usually try to empathize first then give the person some sound advice on getting out of the whole while encouraging them that they can do it, then hug them when they are out to give them the emotional support they need, but it really depends on each individual story I come about. I think I take the dear Abby approach. But I know that climbing onto the whole with them will not do me or them any good so I can only empathize emotionally with my compassion and not throw myself into emotional or physical harm.

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love this thread!!!!!!!

i totally agree empathy is whats needed, but not everyone has it in them to offer empathy to everyone, and when they throw sympathy your way it just feels false and useless. supposedly caring for your plight when they actually dont even have the capacity to get it is really diminishing it and that hurts, and it feels intrusive, like touching without trust. heard this recently from a teen i used to work with talking about s/h and how people see scars and say oh poor you are you ok and how intrusive that feels, how invalidating. the hurt that others jsut dont get it is imense. if you dont get it jst give space because tactless words hurt worse than silence.

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Unconditional love. If not for the person specifically then for humankind, oneself, and one's God. The rest of it all has to come from there or it's just dust in the wind. There's a time for empathy, a time for sympathy, and a time for directive even but it all has to come from love. Unconditional love is a mover of mountains and unfolds over time, slowly, but the effects are real and began before the love was even discovered by anybody else.

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I am the second one, though on a rare occasion I can be the third. As far as I remember I don't think I have ever been the first one, though I could be wrong.

I'm the second because I feel like that's all I can offer most of the time, like I don't have it in me to be the 3rd.

I think the 3rd is usually the most helpful, though the 2nd is always nice, and sometimes I need the 1st for some no nonsense perspective.

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