“I started sharing my pain with everyone,” is what one of my teenage clients said to me recently. What an interesting way to say this. Her words hung in the air.
They are simple and poetic. Significant.
Her words gave me a new context for what it means to “act out.”
When the pain inside became too much for her to bear, she started sharing it with others as a way of saying, “I’m here, and I need someone to care. I can’t handle this on my own.” She had a rough childhood, and she started doing all of the harmful things one can imagine a teenage girl doing to herself, including stealing and harming others.
Adults do this as well – share their pain. The person who abuses their spouse, the dad who can’t stop yelling at his children, the woman who drinks excessively and physically abuses.
We all have these moments of sharing our pain, everyone one of us. Our prisons are filled with people who were sharing a pain too great to hold in.
Is there anyone you can think of in your life that has been sharing their pain with you? Is there anyone in your life that you’ve been unconsciously sharing your pain with? Ask yourself if there’s anything that you can do or want to do about this to help. There may not be . . . and there may be.
I’m reminded of this tale that I read a long time ago. I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the essence of it. The piece that sticks out to me: “If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them. The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behaviour is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity.”
This teenager in front of me had forgotten who she was. That she had a well of good inside. After years of being given someone else’s misbeliefs and someone else’s pain, her real identity was buried.
What if we took the time to listen, care for, and show kindness to the people in front of us who share their pain instead of shame them, punish them, or incarcerate them? Might we be able to remind them of their goodness and their deep capacity for love?
Not easy, but worth a try.