I recently had one of those difficult experiences during which, while comforting a friend, I felt absolutely helpless. The story she recounted had that epic quality, and her despair and loss were great. As I listened to her, I decided that the only thing I could really offer her was my presence, hoping that she would feel seen, heard, and loved.
While listening, I also became aware of her tremendous compassion and her capacity to see the narrative as an evolving part of her life story, pointing her toward new challenges and growth. I could sense my admiration for her deepening and wondered if I would have met a similar moment in my own life with such awareness and resolve.
As we parted, she hugged me and thanked me, saying that she felt better. The strange thing was that as I listened to her unpack her story, share her reactions, and decide on a course of action, I also felt better. I felt emboldened by her courage and fortitude, and a little less fearful that events of such magnitude are simply insurmountable.
This month, Kara writes of “vicarious resilience”, the positive effect on those that witness the healing and growth of others. Therapists have long been aware of the joy of watching the transformation of others. For me, it reinforces the communal nature of the human experience, and the ingenious way our mirror neurons allow us to share the pain and triumph of being human, dispelling our isolation, and allowing us to be one another’s most valuable resource. When we are “in it together”, we truly all benefit.
Blessings on your journey,