When I’m pouring a drink, filling a pot with water, or even emptying a new bag of rice into the Tupperware I count. “Pouring ..1, 2, 3, 4 … done.” I don’t have a reason for counting. I do nothing with the number I reach, I just count.
I don’t know why.
One day I was talking with my Dad and he just happened to mention that he did exactly the same thing!! We were both incredulous! “You too? I was sure I was the only one!”
We proceeded to share all the different places and times we do this and laughed as we tried to work out together why! (No logical conclusion was reached.)
The power of the “you too?” moment is awesome. In funny, random things like this example it creates a fun and friendly link between two people (I often stop mid-counting now to think “ha, Dad would do this too”). In more weighty or life-impacting issues the power of that is exponentially greater.
The divorcee, the abuse victim, the fired worker, the tired parents of toddlers, the grieving spouse, the carer for an elderly relative, the gender-excluded, the shift worker, the insecure or intimidated, the abandoned child, the heart-broken, the lonely person, the socially excluded, or the financially challenged often experience exacerbated levels of grief or struggle because of the perception that they are the only one feeling or experiencing their particular circumstances. When in reality, there’s unlikely to be many experiences known to humankind that aren’t also encountered by others – sometimes many others …sometimes even most.
It’s probably not just you.
The issue with this is that on top of the struggle of whatever it is we’re facing we add an often unnecessary sense of isolation that brings with it an increased emotional cost to process our way through to wellbeing. The language of this looks something like “everyone else is …”, “no one else has to…”, “I’m the only one who …”It’s harder for me because…” or “it’s easier for them because …” Sound familiar?
So what can we do?
- Share your experience. Not only might you find someone else who can relate but you might be that person to another. The more I share of my own life and my own challenges the more “you too?” connections I make. For example, EVERY time I’ve mentioned my own experience of miscarriage I’ve found a “you too?” person in the group.
- Save your emotional energy for the real stuff without adding (most probably untrue) emotional baggage to your journey. When you’re struggling through a challenge or experiencing a difficulty – devote your heart energy to finding a way to cope and thrive. Don’t add the burden of self-imposed aloneness or isolation to the list of things you’re carrying.
- Change your language. I am 150% more prone to exaggeration than the average person. 😉 But in emotionally intense situations we are easily drawn to using exaggeration and over-statement to try and garner the depth of sympathy and response our hearts are looking for. “Never”, “always”, “everyone” and “no one” are rarely accurate statements (like, really, have you polled everyone?!). Yeah. Stop that.
- Check your self-talk. The things we say out loud are at least able to be challenged by more emotionally sober and objective people. What you say to yourself is incredibly powerful and largely unknown to those around you. Take responsibility for your thought life and the kinds of things you accept about yourself from yourself.
- Acknowledge the equation. While each of our circumstances may not be unique in and of themselves, the combination of them in our own lives – plus our personality – plus our life stage – plus our faith – plus our family dynamic – plus our place in the situation (etc etc) -combine to determine its impact on us and our response to it. The “me too” response ought to bring connection not a sense of being dismissed.