Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Empathy and Trauma

What are you ready to talk about?

Today, Boston is no longer the world we knew and expected.  For many of us it is not the world we know how to fully manage.  We may only know how to do what we have always done and that may not feel enough. We grieve the loss of life and limb and our loss of security.  Some of what we might not be ready to do is to talk. We might not know the words that can contain what we feel.

Monday, few of us believed we lived in a world where we would be expected to deal with terror. So now many of us are stunned, overwhelmed and don’t quite know what to do. We are having trouble managing our helplessness and our loss and we show this in our individual ways.   But when we are ready most of us will want to share. Trauma can be most terrible if felt alone.  But being required to speak before it feels safe can make matters worse.  Practice empathy.

Empathy, as I understand it, is an ordinary feature of life where we demonstrate our understanding of the significance of each other’s actions, emotional states and personal characteristics.  But it is not simply an accurate understanding.  Empathy involves an appreciation of our vulnerability. Our vulnerability may include our capacity and desire to share what we are feeling or have gone through.

So wait but be available. Ask each other if you want to talk but respect the integrity of not being ready or willing to speak.

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