I Care, But I Can’t Feel Your Pain

by on January 8, 2014

I Care, But I Can’t Feel Your Pain

beauty girl cryMy wife recently suffered an accident in which she broke a bone in her arm.  We spent the night in the emergency room with the orthopedist looking to put the bone back into place.  The entire procedure took three attempts.  As the doctor was doing his work, it was obvious to me that the moving of the bone back into place was very painful for my wife.  (Her screams made that very apparent).  And, while I was there to comfort my wife and to offer her as much support as I could, I knew at that moment that I had no idea of the type of pain she was feeling.  Even if I did believe I knew, how would I know for certain exactly how pain felt for my wife as it would for me?

“I feel your pain” has become a popular expression that many use when trying to comfort another.  While it is meant to show empathy toward the one suffering, to me it is really more self serving to the one who is saying it.  When someone around us is experiencing something that has them in discomfort, even if it is something we have experienced before, we truly do the one who is suffering a disservice when we tell them we know exactly how they feel.  Each of us experiences differently, processes differently and truly decide on our own timetable on how we choose to move forward from that from which we are suffering.

As a life and career coach, while I rarely work with individuals in physical pain, I often work with many in emotional pain.   Losing a long time job position is painful.  Being turned down on a job interview also hurts an individual.  No matter where my clients are in the moment, when they are confused, doubtful, not sure of their next move, etc., the best I can do for them at that particular moment is allow them to explore their own feelings.  Often that is done by asking open ended, non-defensive questions, which allow them to express their feelings, (questions that begin with words such as How, When, Where, What, which allow them to open up and share their thoughts).  Other times it is as simple as listening attentively, acknowledging what is being heard, validating the feelings.  For others it is asking them simply what they may want to do next, in effect “giving them permission” to explore that approach.  Nowhere along the way am I serving my client well when I tell them what I would do, or what I have done when faced with this type of situation.

The next time you face a painful situation, whether you are the one who is experiencing the pain, or the one who is looking to comfort the one in pain, remember we all experience differently.  If the one suffering, let the one with you understand you appreciate their concern, but you need to process and experience the situation the way that is going to work best for you.  And, if the support giver, listen, be attentive, look to keep your focus on the needs of the one you are supporting and not your own needs, but most of all avoid those four words, “I feel your pain,” or something equivalent to them.  We all heal in our own time, in our own way.  Remember, to keep conscious of that reality.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • FriendFeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Posterous
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: