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What About Me?!

Here is my Thought for the Week for BBC Radio Manchester (19.11.23). You can read the text below or listen through this link at 2 hrs 8 mins into the recording.

We have a rule in my house.

Let me talk you through it. If anyone expresses how they are feeling - we listen. We are not allowed to respond, straight away, with how we feel. For example - we’re in the kitchen, someone says, ‘oh my god, that was such a bad night. I’m exhausted’. The response cannot be - 'me, too. I barely slept’. Or if someone on a car journey says - ‘I’m feeling so sad’. The other person cannot reply, ‘I’m not, I’m pretty happy’. Not allowed. Because at no time, in our house, when someone expresses themselves and their suffering do we reply, implicitly or otherwise - ‘but what about me?’

And this rule may seem crazy, over the top, but it is vital to the wellbeing of our family.

Instead we always acknowledge how the other person is feeling before we share where we are at. ‘I’m exhausted’ is met with, ‘I hear you’, ‘do you want a hug?’, ‘what do you need?’, ‘tell me more’. ‘I’m so sad’ is met with, ‘I love you’, ‘would it help to talk?’ ‘What do you need?’ We pay attention - just as the central prayer in Jewish liturgy states - Shema - listen, pay attention.

We try to honour this rule in pursuit of the wellbeing of our family life by using non-violent communication. We listen, attentively and compassionately to each other. We do not leap in when someone shares their feelings and say, ‘but what about me?’ We do not understand the expression of feelings as a slight or diminishing of our own feelings. We put ourselves aside, just for a moment, to be there. We start with them and practise learning that their feelings do not invalidate or cancel out our own.

From this place, more steps follow. Conversations on repair and forgiveness if needed and appropriate, accountability and justice, action. But we start always with the practice of listening and not reacting. And, my god, is it hard when I too am hurting but it is the one rule I am not willing to break.

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