Why don’t you understand me? – How to let go of expecting people to understand your pain

I am a huge fan of Brene Brown, Brene is a researcher who spent twelve years interviewing and studying the human heart. Through her research she found that every human being had the same need to be heard and validated, she also discovered the nasty emotion called shame, and how it can sabotage our lives. I love how she encourages us to own our story and share it; be vulnerable and open our hearts to people, but what if people are not skilled (or not educated) in supporting someone  with childhood trauma? What if they don’t understand the complex issues involved with recovery? And what if they believe you should be over it by now?

Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around with a secret hidden deep in my heart. That’s where the memories are stored; in a place where there is a door that holds it all in, and only if I choose to open the door will the pain come rushing out. I think I could live most of my life with the door closed until my body is triggered, reminding me of that room in my heart with all the pain. I know it’s not healthy to live with this room hidden but I struggle to find the appropriate time to let people see inside. It’s a heavy burden to live with pain that people either can’t handle or don’t fully understand. I think I’ve subconsciously desired for people to know the weight of the pain but when I do allow myself to be vulnerable instead of responding with empathy people normally have a God answer, “there’s nothing God can’t heal Mel”, and yes I agree with that statement but advice is not what I need; empathy, understanding, and maybe allowing me to let it out without judging me is what I need.

When do we stop trying to get people to understand our story?

Although I love Brene’s teaching I believe it’s not a good idea to be vulnerable with just anyone. When we open up about our story we risk being re-traumatised if the person is shaming, blaming, or gives you unhelpful advice. Carrying around your pain by yourself isn’t helpful either, so what’s the alternative? The alternative is letting go of the expectation that people will understand your pain or even validate your pain. Instead you need to validate your own pain. There is a wounded little girl in that room in my heart and she is the one who is screaming for validation, she is knocking on that door trying to get my attention, and the most important thing I can do is open the door and give her a voice. I can sit with her, listen to her, and cry with her because everything she is feeling is real. The anger is real. The fear is real. The feeling that no one is there for her is real. Those emotions need to be heard to be healed.

What I realised is that not only do I understand her pain but so does God. He has cried a river of tears over what happened to her. He feels her pain and He has the ability to heal her pain. He believes it was unfair. He wants to validate her pain. We could all learn from God’s response to that little girl; He never told her to get over it, He never told her to forget the pain, He only listened with tears in His eyes and said “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry this happened to you”.

You can still feel like it is unfair and let go of the pain

There is a misconception in church culture today that if you feel like something is unfair then you haven’t forgave or are not healed, but I disagree; we need to live in the truth of what happened to us while letting go of the pain. If you saw a horrific story on the news that a child was sexually abused for twenty one years of their life by their father, then you would feel angry and like that was unfair wouldn’t you? Because that is the truth, nothing changes the truth, not even letting go of the pain. Letting go of the pain does bring freedom to that little girl and to the adult woman too. Anger, sadness, abandonment, feeling unfair and alone is all normal emotions to have after suffering sexual abuse. Not everyone will understand that but that’s ok. Let go of expecting people to feel your pain and the heaviness of your pain suddenly gets a little lighter. It’s no longer a secret that you’re carrying, it’s a part of your story, the story that is your choice to tell or not. Be empowered to make your own choice, you decide who gets to hear it, don’t carry the shame of feeling like it’s a secret anymore.

Much Love,

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9 Responses to “Why don’t you understand me? – How to let go of expecting people to understand your pain

  • rschoenmaker@crca.org.au
    3 months ago

    They are awesome insights Mel! They come as revelations from the Father heart of God as He journeys with you through this dark valley. As you share you’re showing us the pathway to healing. We are praying that some time soon that wounded little girl will be thoroughly liberated, the hurts healed (even though memories remain), that she will walk into the light and begin a new season of life.
    Love you.

  • Elizabeth O
    3 months ago

    I enjoy Brene’s books too but, like you, I also agree that we must be vigilant about who/where we share our pain. Being vulnerable in an unsafe space or around manipulative people can be dangerous… Wisdom demands that we know our audience.

  • I like how you distinguish that feeling pain doesn’t mean you need to immediately heal, forgive, and move on. Forgiveness isn’t always something deserved by those who hurt you, nor is it a barrier for moving on. This is some great perspective, thank you for writing it.

  • I love Brene Brown!! Her books are so eye opening about self discovery!

  • Emily Anne
    3 months ago

    Such a powerful and thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing!

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