“I feel your pain” is considered a virtue, but it is anything but. Well meant as it is, it is at the core of codependency.
When someone else is in a state of emotional pain, it is one thing to empathize, understand, have compassion, offer support, and provide practical help. Feeling the person’s pain is quite another. In this case, the person feeling the other’s pain tends to try to solve that person’s problem.
Why? Because it is now also and equally his problem. This attempt is known as “enabling”.
In a short time the enabler becomes dependent on the enabler’s help, and the enabler becomes dependent on the illusion that he is self-sacrificing, and on the path of mutually assured destruction they waltz. Both need each other, one to confirm his helplessness and victim role, and the other to confirm his heroism and moral superiority.
“I feel your pain, tra, la, la” seems to be the theme song of contemporary “parenthood”. I put the word in quotation marks to distinguish this peculiar post-1960s pathology from just raising children. The prepsychological form was “merely” because it did not in itself cause aberrations like parents who felt the pain of their children and thus the obligation to solve every problem.
As a result of exposure (so we sometimes thought) with non-co-dependent parents, we Boomers were forced to develop the armor of emotional resilience, resulting in much better children’s mental health than has since been the case. Much, much, much.
When I complained to my parents that one of my fifth grade teachers didn’t like me, they made it very clear that it was best not to show their dislike of me on my next testimonial.
“Besides,” said my mother, “it is high time you learned to deal with people who don’t like you and to make sure that they have no reason to.”
Nowadays, where is the parent who speaks in this way to a child who refuses to affirm the child’s right to sacrifice in any way? My mother, I thought, was a cold-hearted one who took sadistic pleasure in watching me go down for the third time.
The sign of the right upbringing is not an affirmation of the child. A working definition of “child” is “someone who does not know what is in their best interests”.
The more vehemently a child protests against a parental decision, the more this decision reflects the best interests of the child. So the best answer to a child’s declaration of hatred towards a parent is, “If I were you, believe me, I would hate myself now too! Do you feel the need to share other earth-shattering news with me? If so, I’ll stay as long as you want. I want you to finally have the feeling that you have the freedom here to express your opinion. “
That is not the language of feeling a child’s pain. It is the language that tells a child that their feelings do not determine the reality in the family, that life is full of problems, that problems are always painful, and that the earlier they deal with them, the better it is for them get.
A love that is not tough should always be viewed with skepticism.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at johnrosemond.com. Readers can email him at [email protected]; Due to the volume of emails, not every question is answered.