Belonging to a community comes with many blessings. One that I especially treasure is the safe space where emotional difficulties can be shared openly and vulnerably. The transformation the individual and the group undergoes transcends what we experience on our own.
Recently, I witnessed someone express their feelings in such a group. I felt strongly for her because I remembered times when I felt similarly and I remembered seeing these feelings as a problem that needed solving. I started thinking of the issues and their viable solutions. What would have cheered me up? What would have cheered her up?
But instead of offering solutions, I reminded myself of a recent sadness. Lately, I have been quite cheerful, so feeling sad had made me uncomfortable. Analysing what might have been behind my sadness made things worse, so I turned to the feeling and quieted my mind. Allowing myself to feel the sadness helped me move past it naturally.
On reflection, I realised we don’t always need to be cheered up, nor do we always want someone to come up with for solutions for us. What we really need is a someone who cares for us to listen and share in our feelings.
We sometimes forget that there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with us. We start fixing things before we realise that nothing needs fixing. We try to escape feelings that will leave naturally once acknowledged.
A voice that needs to be heard will speak out. Our feelings need to be heard. When you step out and share your story with a community, you can rely not only on your own strength but the strength of many. The feeling that might have been a burden to carry on your own is transformed into a shared narrative, which is easier to bear as everybody only takes a part of the load.
The storyteller invites the listener to inhabit the story and the narrative goes through a tremendous transformation: it no longer belongs only to the storyteller but to everyone listening. It is woven into the fabric of the community.
The catharsis which the storyteller seeks arises as the group shares in the story collectively. The group members see that they are stronger together than they are individually. Everybody’s experience is enriched: the storyteller no longer stands apart from the group in their feeling, the listeners have a newfound experience of the strength inherent to the community.
Whoever you are supporting, you need to be present for them, whether as part of a community or as an individual. Being present allows feelings to manifest and that in turn leads to transformation.
How do you respond to your feelings? How do you respond to the feelings of others?
Let me know in the comments below: