“What we suffer, what we endure…is done by us, as individuals, in private.” ~Louise Bogan
Yes, ultimately, suffering is truly an intimate and private experience. We endure loss as part of groups we are in, such as with natural (or man-made) disasters and war, but essentially alone within our skin, our bodies and minds. There are commonalities of experience through loss from illness, death, disabilities and injuries, relationships, financial hardship, lack of shelter, brain disorders (mental illness), lack of dignity and respect, aging changes, racism, and more.
Those common experiences can bind us together as friends, families, communities, countries, and ultimately, as the human race. Or they can divide us.
I think of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another; to see someone’s suffering from their perspective as if walking in their shoes – as the glue that binds us. Without the glue, we are painfully divided, and our suffering as individuals increases.
While we cannot walk in the shoes of another sufferer, we do know the pain of our own suffering. With that intrinsic knowledge, we can offer something our pets instinctively do well. Just being present.
Okay, well, pets are often furry, cute, entertaining, and cuddly (and sometimes a bit slobbery!) but, if you are a pet lover then you probably get the point. If you are not a pet lover, it’s okay. You probably still understand by observation of those who do have pets. Their unconditional loving presence is comforting and alleviates some of our pain. They can often be highly sensitive to our suffering as well.
For those suffering, our presence and empathy can make all the difference. Along with solving problems that can be solved, i.e., providing food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, our simple, quiet presence can be the greatest gift for someone who is suffering mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
At our core, we have the ability to move through our pain and grief process and grow deeper in our understanding of what it is to be human. We experience the light and the darkness in cycles, just as the seasons of summer and winter circle back around each year.
It is not an easy thing to do, just to be present, to witness suffering while being helpless to change the situation. Most of us have a strong urge to try to “fix” the situation or solve the problem. That urge can be a form of denial, an inability to accept that some things are just what they seem – awful and unavoidable. That urge to do or say something, or offer an idea that might help is powerful and often driven by our own discomfort. I know that urge. I’ve experienced it gazillions of times. I am as guilty as the next person for allowing my discomfort to get in the way of just being present.
Our empathetic presence can be the key ingredient that helps to alleviate another’s pain.
Feeling alone while suffering increases our pain.
While we cannot change many situations for others, we can do something else on a very human and intimate level.
Just be there.
The feeling of being alone adds to our suffering.
The feeling of being heard and understood adds to our healing and feelings of well-being.
This is why “talk therapy” can change a person’s life. But, I am not talking about therapy.
I am talking about just being humane in our everyday lives; striving to be empathetically present with others. Our friends, families, communities, and each person we meet or stand next to in line at the grocery store are all enduring their own private suffering.
I am ever-so-grateful when I feel the empathetic presence of others. There is a huge presence in my life. And I thank you!
In many ways, this and all of my posts, are reminders for myself. Thank you for tagging along.
The Poetry Foundation notes that Bogan has been called by some critics the most accomplished woman poet of the twentieth century. It further notes that, “Some critics have placed her in a category of brilliant minor poets described as the “reactionary generation.”
*featured photo from cocoparisienne-127419/ on Pixabay
*Quotes of Wisdom – a Friday at 9am (Pacific Time Zone) series offering Wisdom, Feel Good, Inspirational and Thought-provoking Quotes. Sometimes with links and most likely, with too many thoughts of my own included.
As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my journey or re-blog as your heart and mind desire. Namaste