It really bothers me when people say, "I know exactly what you're going through."
No you don't.
I recently saw someone say this on facebook, (oh, our online generation.....a whole different topic...) to a friend of mine who changed their status from married to divorce. I can't even imagine what that feels like, to get a divorce, to go through that heartache. And, as silly as it sounds, having to post it on facebook. Just another reminder that you are going through something painful, and you have to share it with the world.
Anyway, when I saw that phrase, "I know exactly what you are going through," pop up, something defensive stirred within me. Sure, they may have gone through a divorce, too. Their circumstances may have even been the same. But that in now way means they know how that person feels. They do not share the same emotions, the same though process, the same spirit.
I know when people use this phrase, they are probably offering it as some form of comfort, an outstretched had saying, "you aren't alone." But it rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I'm just over-reacting, but to me it feels like that phrase leads back to their story, to focus back on themselves. It's easy to do. We humans are so self-centered.
When Josh came home that day, I unloaded my ramblings on him, trying to figure out why it bugged me so much. I never could figure it out. But Josh saw my point, agreed, and we went on with our day.
The next week, my folks came into town. Oh, I love when they are here. It just seems right, being near them. I get to see them about three weeks out of the year. And those weeks always fly by.
A few days into their stay, my folks and I sat down and began discussing some heavy stuff. You know, about their future, about them getting old eventually, and what will have to happen. I hate thinking about that. I love my parents so dearly, and I honestly well up with tears just thinking about losing them. We finished up the conversation, and I had to go to work. I kept myself distracted, but as soon as I got home, Josh gave me a hug and I started to cry. He took me upstairs and held me silently, confused. The poor guy. He married such an emotional girl. Eventually, I could talk through the tears. "I'm completely overwhelmed right now, with this feeling of loosing them. I miss them, like they're dead, but they're downstairs in my living room. I can't shake this feeling. I don't want to loose them. Ever."
He said to me that he's felt the same thing, this overbearing emotion of loss, of mourning someone who is still here. He then told me about a time when he was very young. Woken up in the night from a nightmare of his dad dying. For a while he couldn't sort what was real or dream. In part of his psyche for those few moments, his dad really was dead. And that is a dreadful feeling to try to swim out of. Sometimes all of our imagination is captive to horrific scenarios. Josh knew. He'd been there. "I know what you're feeling, sweetie."
And then we both started to laugh, given the conversation we had the previous week.
"But this is different," I said. "This, whatever I am experiencing, is completely emotion. Not a situation. And you've felt the same emotion before."
Maybe I'm a hypocrite, maybe I was just feeling defensive for my friend. But in my mind, these are truly different. Emotion vs. Experiences.