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First of all, let me thank you for listening, Fibi.  You really listen, and that is a gift.  There are few things more encouraging or affirming than to be really heard.  I think everyone is unique and so benefited in different ways, and even receive different gifts from different individuals.  So one of the best ways to learn how to support is to ask (as you did).  I naturally imagine that what helps me will help all others, but that proves to be a false assumption on my part.   I first learned from Kimberly that trying to ‘fix’ her is counter-productive (and then to my surprise found the same to be true for myself—I was more benefited by those who listen than those who try to solve). 

When I am depressed, I want friends to simply be sympathetic to my situation.  If I sense they need my feelings to change or expect that their sympathy should make me happy, I don’t feel supported in my present experience, but feel pressured to cheer up (which would require me to deny or suppress my true feelings).  In turn, that pressure feels like a judgment against my depression or against my depression continuing–I am not only sad, but guilty for my sadness.  I realize I may misread others’ attitudes and shouldn’t assume that they are critical of my feelings.  On the other hand, we all have blindspots, so I may accurately sense in others attitudes of which they are unaware.

I have found great encouragement in the sympathy which says, “I feel sad for you, it must be really painful and difficult.  I understand why you would feel depressed.  Share with me how you are feeling.”  In other words, I want my friends to accept my feelings fully as they are.  Instead of trying to get me to join them in their happy feelings, they join me in my sad feelings, not in order to make me happy, but simply to be with me, to identify with my pain, to perhaps share or carry some of my burden emotionally. 

This is not an easy thing to do.  It scares some people, perhaps because they are frightened of their own sad and depressed feelings, which they are trying hard to avoid, or perhaps because they feel unable to be supportive for a variety of reasons.  Their fear or inability is quite understandable and legitimate, and when I am “down,” they may need to put some distance between us for their own sakes.  What I want to say to them is, “It is okay if you cannot support me.  Just please don’t pressure me or condemn me.  Let me at least be true to myself and listen compassionately to my own feelings.” 

Your response to my blog has set me thinking more extensively, so I think I will have more to say soon!


Posted December 7, 2010 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

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