How Does That Make You Feel?
Probably the most closely associated phrase with psychologists and therapists is the “… so how did that make you feel?…” phrase. The very mention of those words can elicit anything from an eye rolls to deep skepticism in those on the receiving end of such a question. Perhaps some of the challenges that such a request presents is that; 1. Answers are often incredibly complex and difficult to describe and 2. Most people don’t feel comfortable about sharing their thoughts and emotions with complete strangers.
Over the past several years I have started asking myself this question from within the comfort and safety of my own mind. How did that make me feel? When asked by myself I get the chance to deep dive into my true feelings and to try and understand them without having to filter and sensor myself.
Recently I asked myself this question when I was evaluating the people in my life and those that I stay in contact with. I have also asked this question with respect to people I have known for a great many years… How did they make me feel? It’s only by doing this that it reveals many surprising revelations.
For example, although my mother and I had a frustrating and difficult relationship at times, but it was during the last decades of our time together that we became much closer than I ever could imagine and whenever we spoke on the phone I would always hang up feeling like I had truly connected and that we deeply loved one another.
Only now, when I have compared this to the way I feel after speaking with various other family members, that it becomes clear that some conversations lack the depth, love, respect, kindness, empathy, support and honesty that I shared with my mother. It also becomes clearer to me which relationships were mutually valuable and where I should be putting my time and energy now.
The same litmus test can then be applied to all the conversations and interactions I have with various other people in my life. If they don’t have a positive and reciprocal basis then I no longer feel it is worth the investment of my time and energy.
Sadly, It has revealed to me that many of the relationships I have cultivated and cling to over the years had mostly been one sided and had taken more than they gave. I look back now and recognize that I must ultimately take ownership for this and it is also my responsibility to make changes for future.
That doesn’t mean it is easy to do though.
I have also realized that the relationships which I have fed and always given to often resist me wanting to change the dynamic and have even pushed back to try and make me return to their former ways. At this stage of my life though I realize that I absolutely can not afford to go backwards and so I have asked myself “what will losing this relationship mean in the big picture?” If it means that I am no longer constantly the one giving, propping up, providing, and providing the care and concern than ultimately it really is no loss to me at all.
No matter who that person may be in relation to me.
Over the past decade of being this unwell and debilitated it really has been the ultimate act of strength and self compassion to stand up for myself at a time when people may wish to look down upon me or judge me. Although at first I didn’t see it as strength and self respect, it has become clearer to me that by letting go of the toxic, and not scraping the barrel for love and kindness, I have shown more strength than I ever had as an able bodied person.
But it isn’t easy.
These days I will only interact with those I feel care equally for me and give back as much as they take. I am always asking myself how does this relationship make me feel? And if the answer is that it is not positive or enriching then I will have to make the decision to move on and to let go.
I now realize that this is ultimately an act of great kindness and self love. The more I have exercised this ability the more I have become better at doing so with respect and peace. Perhaps because chronic fighters face daily challenges that most people can never comprehend that we realize that we can’t afford to waste precious time or energy on things that will not sustain us in our daily struggles and that won’t add to our overall happiness in life.
I have learned to be kinder to myself as a chronic fighter than I ever did as abled bodied person and when I ask myself how does that make me feel I have to admit I makes me very pleased.
2 thoughts on “How Does That Make You Feel?”
With my mom so ill for so long my father and I really never totally developed a close relationship. I knew dad loved me, and i loved him, but to be close? Not so much.
Mom passed at 48 and I was in my early 30’s and frankly by then my dad and I did not have a relationship. It had just gone so far downhill by then. But then, something happened. As dad and I no longer had my mom to run interference I had to rely on him for help and he on me for family. I was fortunate and not fortunate to be an only child and that meant we had to love each other or forget about it.
Dad and I reworked our relationship over time and by the end of his life we tried to talk every day and we mostly laughed. We teased each other, played practical jokes on each other (I gave him a $20,000 winning fake lottery ticket for Christmas). We just had the best time.
At the end as dad lost his mental faculties and he became angry with me, I knew it was not personal. It was the cancer and I was able to get along with things.
I had two relationships with my dad; one I did not much care for, and one that was loving, caring and full of mutually shared experiences. I cherish the second one I had my dad. When he passed I knew we I had been given a gift. A gift of love.
Yeah it was there all along, we were just much to worried about the very real illness of my mom to nurture it. In a way mom’s passing was her gift to both of us. On the day of dad’s funeral I cried for my loss, and I thanked my mom for second chances and my dad for not giving up.
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful part of your life my friend. It is truly appreciated