I will always care

Watching someone pick apart what I’m telling them from a place of vulnerability and absolute emotional honesty is the most hurtful thing I can imagine. To have to defend or debate something that’s a subjective experience, my experience, is like nails on a chalkboard. I don’t do it. I won’t do it. I shut down, pack up and leave before the tears give me away.

It’s so painful to hear, but what about this other perspective? you’re clinging to one version.

It’s painful to stumble across such resistance when you’re not expecting it. Takes the air out of you. Makes you hypervigilant and ask yourself how you didn’t see that this wasn’t the person to open up to?

Invalidation. And when you express that you feel patronized being told, no I’m not patronizing you.

Am I going crazy? If you were to come to me to tell me about an emotional experience and I didn’t see it the same way, I’d never ever think to butt in by superimposing my view. Not that what I do is some moral yardstick, but because I operate that way thinking it’s common sense.

I don’t ever debate someone. I ask for clarification, trying to understand the other and if they’re interested in a mutually open conversation then I’m up for it. But once it becomes a tug of war, I’m out. If I’m not being heard, if I’m not being seen, if someone can’t empathize with what I have to say then I can’t force or demand it. But I do have an obligation towards myself to ensure emotional safety. And that entails getting out of the battlefield. I don’t care what it’s for, I will never try to change someone’s view or tell them to switch views.

Even for racists, I try to get inside their heads and see where the point of pain is and use that as the pivot for my lens through which I’m viewing them. I do this to avoid projecting myself on them and to ensure that when I walk away it’s not because of my issues.

This is the one thing that makes me feel very isolated and alone. Knowing I can receive others but that it’s not a given for me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate this world without resentment or a chip on my shoulder. I know that I need to feel emotionally safe. Like that’s not negotiable. And that’s something I just discovered this morning. I’ve been trying to find the words for that core need, and I’ve been at it for many years. I had general and vague terms to refer to it as, such as belonging and understanding. For a very long time I thought if someone was able to intellectually understand me once I explain my point then that’s what fulfilled the need. But nope. That theory collapsed back in March and I was swallowed by an existential sinkhole.

How do I validate my own feelings while making space for others? How do I know when to share myself and when to be cautious?

I just discovered it through a painful interaction that had me on the verge of tears. I’m always weary of defending myself or thinking the other was wrong because that’s the same polarizing dynamics that others use to not feel vulnerable. So I just held space for my sudden sadness and I realized it was much deeper than just this interaction. Feelings don’t lie. And sure enough, as I connected with the feelings they contained the emotional DNA that stores the memories and information needed to evolve.

It’s not about what others do. Emotional safety isn’t out there. It’s not something others can provide. It’s a state of being where I get to decide and discern the type of experiences that I go through. I get to decide when to lean in and when to walk away. And because I’m not making others accountable, they don’t have a say in how I move. I don’t need to explain my choices. If you can empathize, you’ll understand. If not, then I don’t fault you but you can’t fault me either.

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