Last night I was virtually up all night because I didn’t feel well. I passed the time by watching TED talks. I chose to watch one particular talk given by Brene Brown called “The Price of Invulnerability” (it’s a good talk – go watch it!). Now whether it was because it was 4 am and I was feeling pretty crummy physically and also emotionally after a hard day or if it was just because it is an amazing talk I spent part of the time watching it close to tears. And when she said one thing the tears erupted. She said something (roughly) like this:
People who are trauma survivors have told me ‘I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t want your pity. I want you to look at your life and know what you already have’.
For me this is it. I don’t want my friend’s pity or something for what I have had to endure, my diagnosis or my past. All I want is for them to have gratitude for what they already have. I have run into people in the treatment world who wish for trauma, who make it up or embellish it. I go through times when this makes me angry and times when it simply makes me sad and times when it makes me both. I suppose the wishing/embellishing/making up comes from a place of trying to relate to other or validate why they struggle with what they struggle with. That anyways is the nice answer I can pull out of the hat.
P and I were trying to put the exact concept of gratitude that Brene Brown does so succiently above into words the other day. We were talking of our treatment friends (and they are always there) who are like this. I think to a degree we can intellectually understand it like I described above but like me P, is also a trauma survivor and there is a deep seated pain and anguish that arises when people ‘wish’ for trauma or embellish their experiences. We also talked about how we would like others to relate to us and we tossed around words like we wished other knew how ‘lucky’ they were. How they by some shade of fate or whatever just happened to have all the right hands in the deck tossed at them so they avoided trauma. We talked that we don’t want the pity or sadness which we sometimes receive from people, we just want them to know damn lucky they are. ie – all we want from others is that they know what they already have.
It’s hard not to get mad at people when they show me pity or sympathy. In my mind these are very different emotions than empathy. Empathy to me is much more of an equalizer It put both the empathizer and the one receiving the empathy on the same level. There is no ‘looking down upon’ or feeling sorry which pity and sympathy entails. Empathy is not static. It moves with a person and allows someone to heal. Pity keeps a person in a box. A box in which the peson who feels pity towards them sees that the situation that happened to them is ‘so sad’ and makes that individual a victim. There is no room to move away from that box. And I believe that there is no room to move in a relationship when one individual feels pity for another. I believe that the pittyier so to say naturally feels somewhat superior while the one who is pitied tends to feel demeaned.
And to those who do not have trauma nor can they understand my past? I don’t want that pity. I don’t want that sympathy. It doesn’t make me feel loved. It doesn’t make me feel understood. As Brene Brown reported I just want people to know what they already have. I want you or whoever is reading this to be able to feel grateful that you have been spared (if you have) by luck, fate, faith (whatever you believe in) the devastating effects of trauma. Not all are so lucky. I have not been so lucky. Be grateful for what you have and for what you have been spared. As Brene Brown says “look at your life and know what you already have’. That’s all I want or need from you as a survivor.