As I’m working on getting through and eventually past this family nonsense that’s been going on around us for such a long time, I’m spending more time than I’d like thinking about things that have been said, rolling things around in my mind.
One of the things my husband asked his sister was if she truly understood what I’ve been through in my life and how it’s affected me, in an effort to try to ascertain why she didn’t understand my need to journal, to write about my feelings, etc.
She angrily responded “She’s told me about some of it.” and their mother made a bit of a speech… “Unless someone has gone through exactly the same experiences, there is NO WAY they can understand. It doesn’t matter what they are told, if they didn’t go through it themselves then you can’t expect them to understand.”
I don’t necessarily think this is true. I think when we hear about a woman who is raped, a soldier who has PTSD, a child who has been abused, a woman who has been the victim of domestic violence, etc., though we haven’t experienced what they have, most educated adults have been exposed to enough information and personal accounts to have developed a basic understanding of how such ordeals impact the lives of others.
No, no one would expect anyone to fully understand, to be ‘inside the head’ of the survivor, but certainly asking one to have a working understanding of how a person could be effected shouldn’t be unreasonable.
I especially believe that if a survivor shares with others, ‘when this happens, this is how it makes me feel’, then an educated adult should be able to develop an understanding of how certain, specific interactions impact the survivor. One doesn’t have to had experienced exactly the same things in order to develop an understanding of what that person may be feeling.
Isn’t that what “empathy” is really all about? Being able to imagine oneself in the position of another person. Can we only have empathy for people when we know, ourselves, first hand, what another person has experienced? I don’t think so.
I think the position that my husband’s mother took is at the very least disingenuous, at the worst ignorant.
I find it hard to believe that after telling my husband’s sister that her daughter ignoring me triggered me, brought up a lot of issues for me, as my own family has practiced abandonment as a form of punishment throughout my adult life. It causes me to question my own value, worth, as a person, it causes me to question my security within the family structure, it causes me to question the validity of my relationships and the motives of the people in those relationships wanting to ‘interact’ with me.
After telling her this, she began to actively ignore my phone messages, emails, attempts to chat with her online. She eliminated all contact with me and she wants me to believe she’s incapable of understanding how that would make me feel.
I tend to believe, possibly incorrectly, that this kind of behavior is more about ‘indifference’ than a lack of capacity for understanding. It’s more a choice to not try to understand.
What would happen if I didn’t try to understand the feelings of others, what would happen if I neglected others, if I were indifferent to their suffering and struggles? Some would say I would be a happier, less stressed person because I absorb too much of what other people are experiencing, but in the past, when I have made time for me, when I haven’t been as responsive to the needs of others, when I didn’t show the level of caring I have in the past, I was labeled as selfish, uncaring, hurtful and neglectful by these very same people.
Seems to me, now that I analyze it, it’s very hypocritical, very unfair. I’m through with that kind of nonsense. Not wanting to understand sends a very clear message that I’m finally receiving.