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Feeling Other People's Pain...

I do.  Like all the time.  I feel dragonflies' pain.  I feel immensely sad for the dead squirrel in the road.  I am heartbroken by a dead lizard I saw in the parking lot the other day.  Each one of these losses hits me personally...and I think about it and them long after my involvement with them is over.  And I can’t control it.  It just comes.  


If you ever had the time, you could ask me about all the painful things I have witness, I will tell you the first list I would give you would be all the animals I have seen harmed.  It is traumatizing and it haunts me.  Literally.  When I close my eyes, this is what remains after the actual view is gone.


I did not choose to be this way.  I mean, who the fuck would pick this extreme emotional sensitivity to other being’s pain?  And because I am an addict, I feel like I must try to avoid feeling it.  And so I have attempted to shut it down and out for decades.  My first reaction is to look away.  To attempt to avoid it, like if I can’t avoid it, it might kill me too.  I know when I am most spiritually fit when I can view it, not look away and pray.  Pray for the soul lost, my own and any others who might be similarly affected by the dead being on the pavement.


I saw a dead baby deer on the road when I was back East.  I cannot tell you the number of times that image has come into my consciousness, without my consent, or even trying to remember it.  I would love to forget it, really, I would. But it is etched in there and I am like an etch-a-sketch waiting for someone to come and shake loose that particular image and memory.


It is most acute with animals, but I feel the same way about people.  People just don’t garner as much sympathy from me because they, well, we behave like such assholes a great deal of the time, it is harder, sometimes, to feel the pain of someone who appears to be completely immune to the suffering of others.  But yes, even those complete fucking assholes, I think and feel their pain too.  And sometimes this acute pain of people that I do not even like is the hardest to bear.


Like that very angry woman who confronted me in the parking lot last week.  She took videos and spewed vitriol like she was some sort of human volcano.  She hated with her whole being.  And all I could think of, once I remove myself from her verbal assault, was how much pain she must be in.  How hard her life might be, what had she suffered in her life to cause her to be the way she was?


Now, I do NOT want to think like this.  I want to call her a fucking nut job and then move on with my life, but that is not how I work, apparently, despite a strong desire to be more callous and hard and impervious to the pain of others.  No matter how thick I attempt to grow my skin, it changes nothing.  Your pain, the pain of others is something I feel acutely, no matter what.


And sometimes, it feels as though I am more capable of feeling your pain than you are and that feels somewhat unfair.  I have all my own pain over here, and now I feel responsible for picking up your pain too.  And if you aren’t feeling it, I often feel like someone has to, so I sign up for yours as well.  Like there is some sort of vast pain experience paradigm where I have become some sort of universal pain attendant!  Fuck, I do NOT want that job, and yet, here I am, so often.


I also manufacture pain for myself and others.  Again, another “gift” I did not wish to have or really remember signing up for...it is just how I roll.  And try as I might, I have only been able to change this seemingly immutable characteristic about myself ever so slightly.


I feel the pain of animals, insects, birds, kids, adults, old people, random people on the street, people I do not like, people I would rather not know, people I love and people who do not treat me very well...and sometimes it feels like a burden that is going to do me in.


I do see that this feeling of other’s people’s pain has set me up for a great deal of hardship and relationships that do not really serve me, and I am not sure what to do about it really.  I mean, I know this “ability” causes me to engage with people and relationships in a codependent manner.  I know this.  But so far, it has been fucking impossible to alter it.  No matter how hard I try to harden myself, steel myself to the pain of others, it comes anyway, regardless of what I want, need or insist to not feel. The pain of others causes me to find acceptance for things that are not really acceptable.


And so it seems that I am getting another lesson in acceptance.  I cannot change it, I have tried.  I have attempted to callous up and over my tender heart and mind.  But that has proven to be absolutely fruitless and without even a marginal inroad.  So I find myself left with the notion that this may just be one of those things I just have to accept.


I feel the pain of others and, so far at least, I am powerless to change this aspect of my being.  I know it opens me up. I know it is an asset and a strength, I just wish it felt better or that I knew what to do with the pain that I receive in every day living, that is not mine and that I am so frequently awash in.


There is a young woman missing in my community and I look for her everywhere.  I find myself seeking her out, thinking of how scared she must be, how her family must feel, how awful this situation is for them.  How the not knowing where she is must be excruciating.  And I think on my most spiritual days, that perhaps my willingness to feel the pain of others, might be one way I can be of service.  Perhaps if I am a little more willing to feel what I feel, perhaps I can do so with the idea that the other beings might suffer less. Intention matters...I know it does.


This is my best effort to resolve this somewhat hard thing about me.  Perhaps I can attempt to feel it more willingly, so that others might not have to. I mean, I am going to feel it anyway...so perhaps creating an intentional prayer around it that I might feel it more fully so someone else doesn’t have to might be something I can do with this.  I don’t know, would that prevent them from having to feel something they need to feel to make the changes in their lives that are theirs to make?  Not mine?  I don’t know...see that is the crux of the issue, I seriously do not know what to do with all the pain I feel.  I don’t know what to do with my own, and I most certainly do not know what to do with yours.  And feeling it, wears me down and grinds me to a very thin margin.


I can also see that trauma has this double bind affect: it leaves you open and vulnerable to the pain of others, while also disconnecting you from yourself and your ability to actually feel it and release it.  So instead of the pain just passing through, it lands and then remains, and so often festers. I cannot tell you how many pains I continue to carry that are not mine at all.  And as much as I wish I could be different, I am not.


So I move through this life with this somewhat broken way of living...unable to keep the pain out but also pretty unclear how to move the pain through either.  And that is a very hard way to live your life.


Again...still.




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