One of the statements that always frustrates me when I hear it, is “I know how you feel.” No, you do not ever know how I feel because you have not personally experienced what I have felt, thought admittedly, you may have an understanding, perhaps because of having had a similar experience. So, gasp, at the risk of being “politically correct”, gulp, something I am not very good at to begin with, yikes, perhaps instead of stating “I know how you feel,” if you feel a need to respond, simply say, “I understand how you must be feeling.” It lets us know that you have heard us express what we may be dealing with.
There is a pretty good chance that if someone is expressing something that appears painful, physically or emotionally, that person is either trying to relieve some of the angst or negativity, or is reaching out for help. And though it may seem harmless, to say “I know how you feel,” and perhaps you may be trying to say “I hear you”, that is not how it will come across to the person seeking someone to just recognize that the individual is not alone. What that person hears, is that you also have your own problem, and there is a good chance that now guilt will be added to the other’s issue, or perhaps if it is someone who has the personality of taking more on their shoulders than they should, they will add that to their issue as well, because friends do not turn away friends, especially when in need.
Okay, so I got off topic with the title, but I could not help writing the first two paragraphs, whenever I hear people discuss how they are feeling, or what something feels like, and I always hear the same thing, “I know how you feel.”
So, the other day, I was asked, what did it feel like to get diagnosed with cancer? To get diagnosed with a major heart issue? To find out that the price of my survival has been more physical ailments caused from the severity and toxicity of my treatments decades ago?
Yeah, like that. Like having the wind knocked out of me. At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I was six months away from getting married (the first time), had a great job. Things were looking great. And just like that, it all changed. When it came to my heart issue, again, everything was going great, my daughters were growing rapidly, the house was in good shape (and so was the economy until a few months later). And just like that, it all changed. As for the other issues I am dealing with, they have not presented themselves yet to the point, that I am left with that “punch in the gut” “knocked the wind out of me” feeling.
But just as fighters get pumped for their big fight, something they have looked forward to doing, so it is with events in our personal lives. But eventually you have to get into the ring. Sometimes you just get hit with jabs. Sure, they sting, but not often do they have the impact that a good punch to the rib cage will cause gasping for air, like wondering “what just happened?” And very quickly you need to regain your focus before you end up taking another severe shot. Very much so, once being given a difficult diagnosis. It is so important to regain that focus.
There is a lot of information that will follow that “punch in the gut.” And unless you have someone else with you to help gather the information, you are the only one in that ring. You have to defend yourself and get on the offensive.
I have people who have given me news of diagnosis, getting divorced, deaths of loved ones. And while I have a strategy for getting through these events, some work, some do not, it is not a “fitsall”. But neither are the feelings that I had when experiencing these things. But what I do have, is an understanding of what someone may be going through.
“I understand how you are feeling,” may just open the door for the other person to reach out for help or support, that if originally told “I know how you are feeling,” the person may just shut down feeling you have your own burdens and then not wanting to burden you with anymore.
And just for the record… I have taken a punch to the rib cage knocking the wind out of me. Emotionally for me with my diagnosis, it left me with the same feeling, just mentally, instead of physically.