Oddments

In search of story

February 17.19 (yesterday cont’d)

4 Comments

I’ve been thinking about “me too,” and how it is used. The photo of Emmy in yesterday’s post helped me with my thinking. “Me too” had come to suggest pretense to me, pretending someone else’s shoes fit.

Don’t get me wrong: in no way am I disparaging the MeToo movement, whose voices have given the strength of the many to the one. As depressing (if unsurprising) as MeToo truth has been, it has also been affirming; the one person who comes forward now has the voice of the many behind her or him.

But if you tell me about a worry or fear or grief you have, and I respond “me too” or some variation of it, aren’t I slamming a door on you? Dismissing you and changing the subject to me? Aren’t I saying “enough about you”?

Once I was talking to a dear friend about a problem in my life. She responded, “I can’t even imagine.” It was the most supportive thing she could have said. If she had said “me too,” she wouldn’t have helped at all; she would only have been pretending to walk in my shoes, pushing me out of them.

When is “me too” genuine empathy, and when is it just upstaging?

And that, dear reader, is how yesterday’s post came to be.

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “February 17.19 (yesterday cont’d)

  1. I agree with you about legitimate ‘me too’ complaints. One person does not have to fear bringing forth an issue anymore. When someone shares a problem, I try to listen, and I try to not pretend I understand unless I do. If you talk breast cancer to me, I can’t speak to it first hand so I won’t try. If you talk back problems, now there I can feel the pain just listening to you explain it to me. I think some people are out of practice on the ‘listening’ part of conversation. But, then we have a lot more ‘comments’ these days than conversations. 🙂 Happy Sunday as we ponder your thoughtful post.

    • I hadn’t thought about that — the role of the so-called social media. When you get right down to it, social media isn’t really very social, is it? At least not in the way that some of us would define “social.” Indeed, comment isn’t the same as conversation, and, I suspect, tweet even less so. I do like your observation that some people are out of practice with listening. That’s an understatement! I fear being one of them.

      I totally agree that there’s a difference between understanding and pretending to understand. Your point is well taken about back pain! There are certain experiences in life we can feel all over again when someone else mentions them!

      A happy Sunday to you, too, Judy! May there be a walk on the beach and warm sun!

  2. I agree with Judy and yourself on most things, but I do find WordPress surprisingly social and I think it probably counts as social media. That’s not to say it is easy to thoughtfully respond to a series of very generic one word comments!

    I agree that when we say ‘me too’ we pass the focus from the person speaking too quickly to ourselves. It is not easy for most of us to pluck up the courage to say a heartfelt ‘I suffered this outrage or this loss and am still suffering’. In the moment where one of us is weighing all the pain that involves, it isn’t the kindness we might think to say ‘I have suffered that way myself’ and effectively shut the door on anything outside our comfort zone. Also our experiences are all in some ways unique and we instinctively like that to be acknowledged.

    The supposed difference between sympathy and empathy might be throwing in red herrings too. I have never been convinced that one is OK and the other isn’t.

    But words are poor tools, as I often think, no more evident that when it comes to trying to give (and the infinitely harder task of taking) comfort. We just have to bumble around ineffectively, hoping the heart will show on our sleeve even as our words make us wince.

    • You and Judy are giving me much to think about today, and I thank you both.

      I suppose WordPress does qualify as social media, and I find some irony in the fact I agree with you wholeheartedly that words are poor tools and yet here we are on WordPress, where words rule.

      I think you nailed the crux of the matter with your observation about the heart.

      I’d never considered that, of sympathy and empathy, one is OK and the other isn’t. I must think about that too.

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