Once upon a time, it half-killed me to discover that anyone hurt. The idea that anyone ever experienced pain was nigh unbearable to me.
And oh no… forget about a situation where I actually caused said pain. That was beyond excruciating. I felt like the worst person in the world whenever I hurt someone. Yes, even if it was an accident. Yes, even if it was incidental, part of my doing something that I needed to do in order to keep healthy or protect myself.
This is because I actually care about other people. I do. More than most people do, I think, by default — just judging by things that have happened in my life and how others have responded (or didn’t).
Once upon a time, the idea that I inadvertently caused anyone even momentary, fleeting pain… well, it made me feel like a monster.
This worked as a world view until… one day it didn’t. I found it to be particularly strained and challenged by reality when I started working in the helping professions. Client work was particularly eye opening. It became evident that even when you’re a so-called professional, even when you have the training and the experience, even when they’re paying you to work with them, you are not an emotional magician.
It became crystal clear: You can’t make anyone feel anything. Feeling is this complex process that also involves the person who is having the emotions to varying degrees.
I used to see people in pain and want to make them feel better. I know now that’s not always possible or desirable. And sometimes it’s important for them to feel the pain and grow from it.
This was especially the truth with clients. As I mentioned in a recent post, the healing process can itself be traumatic.
That’s not to say that if you’re causing pain to someone that you’re actively participating in their healing process. It doesn’t work that way.
But sometimes people need to hurt. Sometimes it’s part of getting better. And other times it’s just something they’re going through.