I am sad. You are sad. We are not sad for the same reasons. But being sad is very sad and tiring. No matter the cause, sadness makes you tired and blurs your view of reality. I do not need to compete with you to determine who should be more sad. That would create more problems. But I can empathize with you that your sadness and my sadness make us feel low, tired and sad. We can be sad together.
There is no one right way to stop being sad. Sometimes, you just have to feel it until it goes away. Sometimes you can get a break from your sadness when a friend makes you laugh or you see a puppy jumping in a pile of leaves.
It’s okay to be sad. I don’t have to try to fix your sadness. Your tiredness. Your depression. Your anxiety. Your anticipation. Your incessant need to arrange things from a-z. I don’t need to try to find a story of a time when I felt sad or depressed or…whatever…and try to give you a formula for what worked for me.
It doesn’t work that way. Your x=y isn’t the same as my x=y. There will never be one size fits all. But that is not required to feel empathy.
“I know exactly how you feel” is a lie. Unless you are the other person, the combined experiences and relationships of that person, you can NEVER, no, not EVER understand EXACTLY how someone else feels. But, you can empathize. Because you know that feeling tired, depressed, anxious, betrayed, hungry or creative all have an impact on a person. No matter what the cause or the degree.
We are all on different paths. Not a single one of us can truly understand exactly what someone else is going through or what they need to do. But we can walk along side them and be there for them without judgment or criticism or ADVICE.
When you are down, what do you want from your “others?” Do you want them to try to fix things or to just listen? Try to do what you would want when you find yourself in the situation someone else is in. Even if it is not exactly what they need, they will KNOW and FEEL that you are genuine and not judging or belittling their experience.
Empathy is powerful. It’s something we can all get better at. Even if it isn’t easy at first, you can learn to do better. The world needs more empathetic people and fewer judgmental and closed-minded people.
It’s not complicated. No charts or checklists are needed.
Just get YOU out of the way and BE THERE for others. You will not diminish yourself by being there for others and absorbing their unique experiences, you will expand yourself and become MORE.