For along time now I’ve known that lived experience is a powerful thing. Those who go through extreme adversity in their lives often end up helping others through similar experiences. It doesn’t always happen of course. Sometimes life can be too overwhelming and traumatising to stay in that arena once we’ve escaped it. For my children and others like them, who have early trauma experiences. the ripple effects can be long lasting. It can be hard to truly understand when we haven’t lived it ourselves.
Corona virus has been looming large in all our lives for some months now. It’s been in our media daily and the impact in our lives to one extent or another. I’ve heard (and felt) both extremes of thinking – “it’s not that bad and maybe not even real”, to “it’s the biggest threat we’ve ever seen and must be taken seriously”. I’ve sat somewhere in the middle, I guess. I can see it’s real and is devastating to our health, families and our economy. It’s still felt very distant though – as we’ve sat in lockdown or been in shopping centres with hundreds of other people, it’s seemed something that happens to others.
These last few weeks it has become a lived experience for me. I felt a cold coming on a few weeks ago and then what I thought was just a head cold – headaches, aching, dizziness, change in appetite and nausea. After taking a test just to make sure it wasn’t covid it turned out to be positive! It feels very strange to be in this number of people who have caught this virus, all be it in a mild sense. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a severe case as this hasn’t been a nice experience at all.
Why am I mentioning this on my blog this week?
It’s made me think today about empathy and how we experience things that others experience. It’s hard to really know how things feel for others unless we’ve lived it – or unless we can develop the skills of listening to others and feeling how they might feel.
I don’t think you have to have lived the same things as the children in your lives in order to feel compassion and empathy. To hear the stories of others adversity and how they have had to live through pain helps us to be able to support them. Instead of saying “what’s wrong with you?” our question should be “what happened to you?”.
Now when people talk about Covid I will have a lived experience of this virus. Unfortunately, before it is through many of us will have experienced it first-hand. But even if we don’t, we can still empathise with others as we listen to their experiences. The same is true of everyone we come across on a daily basis. It is ‘children in need’ week here in the UK when we turn our gaze to the challenges for our children, but those challenges are there every week of the year. Let’s listen to others with an open mind and an open heart.
Being seen and heard is a powerful thing – one which can help heal. Maybe this week we could talk less and listen more….