Its okay. You will get through this. You just need to get over this! How many different expressions have you and I been told over the years that are as useless as these?
I remember meeting with a group one time in dealing with grief. We were talking about all the unhelpful things that people say to a person when they are dealing with a krisis. [just a reminder, since the event is never the real krisis, it is the impacted who determine the krisis; not us spectators.] There was an older woman in the group and she still remember what everyone kept telling her in her teens. She shared with the group that her first boyfriend was a carp.
I bit, so l asked her if that was a first name or last name?
She replied, it was neither but he was a carp nonetheless.
So I replied with, I am sorry I just don’t get what that means
She smiled [one of those grandma type of smiles] and said, ‘everyone kept telling me that there was lots of fish in the sea so he must have been a carp’.
We all busted out laughing.
She shared with the group, that it was her first boyfriend, and other than one teacher in grade 2, it was her first love. Then she added ‘look at me, I have had a lot of different people and things I’ve loved over my years. Why is that memory still so loud in my ears’.
She lowered her head as we could see the water levels rise in her eyes.
There is a very simple principle here, and I pray that you hear me please. I know that each of you reading this will be able to go to a time and place where you could put names to the principle she shared. Why do we remember those moments so powerfully?
Its actually very simple; if you want to make a memory stick – attach an emotion! here is why krisis is so powerful. The event creates a ripple in your life because, as I mentioned previously, the event was unexpected, has created uncertainty, and now there’s a sense of a threat to your important goals, and the normal routine you’ve been living requires the need for change.
So with all this swirling in our lives, the normal human fight-flight-freeze-appease reaction kicks into gear. The reality is that there are now emotions with this event so the memory sticks. Please note, this does not mean that it is a factual account of what happened. However as a person in krisis that isn’t important. If you want to make things worse, so please don’t ever do this to another human being – tell them that what they are thinking and feeling isn’t really what happened! If you are foolish and evil enough to do this, then don’t be surprised if your relationship forever changes after that moment!
This speaks to other side of the krisis equation that this woman shared. How you and I respond to a person is krisis creates the same emotional memory that the actual event did. How a person responds to us when we are spinning will never leave us neutral. We will either become better friends or the friendship forever changes.
Think about your own journey. How many times have you had a significant event happen in your life? Think about those defining moments, but what l’d like you to think about is the people involved. Think about those people who did not come into life to fix, diagnose, or prescribe. They came in our lives, they ‘got in the boat’ with us [even though it might be sinking] and listened while they rowed – they became such real friends. Yet the people we thought would be best friends… well as I heard one person say, the real friends walked in when the rest of the world walked out!
Why does all this matter? Simple these emotional attachments reveal what really matter to us. If people are something to be fixed, if relationships are to be conversations about the opinions, facts or the weather, then we will never get relationships to the deeper levels of emotions, transparency or vulnerability. Ironically real life and relationships are only lived at the riskier but deeper levels.
When a person is in krisis, which is never the event, who are they to you and I? What’s their real value to you as this gets expressed when they need us and it is inconvenient for us, or what we’d call ‘not a really big deal’!
What can you do?
- First listen, are they describing something that is important for them?
- Check your initial ‘gut’ reaction; is it your watch/daytimer or them?
- So as my son once said to me holding both hands on either side of my face, ‘dad, would you listen to me with your eyes too’?
- Listen with your eyes
- When you get to the point to know their concerns so clearly that you could share it like your own story; then and only then can you ask ‘so what can you and I do about this?
- Since its normal human with normal reactions there is nothing to fix. It might just be company for this part of their journey
On the other hand
This principle has crept into our marriage as my wife seems to understand the memory and emotion principle very well. We have arrived at a place where we are honest or open, she is able to ask the hard questions and I am able to be transparent and vulnerable with her.
She usually starts with, john, do you remember when…?
My response is often, no I am sorry I do not remember that. I sometimes sweeten it up with words like ‘sweetheart, my love…’ but the bottom line is no I don’t.
Her response has become, ‘so what you are telling me is that you have no emotional attachment to that event, that’s what you are saying?’
Being emotionally honest, transparent, with vulnerability I respond, ‘yup, pretty much that what that means‘
And we both break out laughing.
To be fair, I share some things that she has no emotional attachment to either!