I get asked frequently, “Is it ok to feel this way? Is it ok for me to think this?”
The questions are often asked with tentativeness, as if they are expecting to hear, “No. It’s not ok. You are bad. I think you better leave as quickly as possible.”
They’re looking for affirmation, and I do offer it. However, I don’t want to reinforce the need to seek permission for their thoughts and feelings to exist, to own them.
If people are asking for permission, it’s pretty common that they are stuck in a place they don’t want to be. There’s often a secondary question that’s hidden.
It’s a question of validity.
“Do my thoughts and feeling count? Do they have significance? Do they matter?” The real doubt being communicated, “Do I matter?”
My answer is always the same.
You matter. Regardless of what’s been said or done to you, you matter. Regardless of what you’ve said or done to others, you matter.
It’s often the question behind the question.
Some people don’t talk much in relationships even when there seems to be plenty to talk about. The silence makes the people who they care about, and who care about them, act just a little bit crazy!
Nagging, persuading, begging, and threatening are a few of the things tried. The motivation: “I want to make them talk to me!”
When that doesn’t work, the more verbal person might start talking for both of them, telling the other person how to think or feel. The quieter one may even grow to appreciate not talking. It’s more comfortable being told what to think than have to face the discomfort of not having an answer.
That can make the relationship really crazy!
It’s common that the quiet person isn’t being intentionally obstinate. When they say, “I don’t know”, it often begs the responding question, “How can you not know? You have to know!” Most of us have participated in this less-than-productive conversation.
What if they are telling you the truth? What if they aren’t lying? What if they really don’t know?
They don’t know why they did what they did or said what they said. They don’t know what they want to do. They don’t know how they feel or what they think. They don’t know.
They don’t have words to put with what they’re experiencing. They may lack the vocabulary. They may lack the security to speak it.
I was given some great advice years ago, “Kathy, if you want the people you love to talk with you, to trust you, you have the responsibility to be a safe person for them to talk with.” After I got over the pride of hearing the truth about myself, it helped. A lot.
Most of us can’t tell the difference between being listened to and being loved.
Love well. Listen.
My mind wandered this morning to some random things my mom said.
My mom died in 2000 when she was 65 of some premature health issues; she regretted not caring better for her health.
There’s only one body to live this life from. Care well for yourself. Enjoy life!