WE NEED TO TELL OUR STORIES UNTIL WE DON’T

Have you ever noticed how when something unexpected happens to people, especially if it’s a shock or traumatic in any way, they tell everyone they see afterwards all about it? They also often tell the story again and again to the same people. It can be hard to avoid an invisible roll-of-the-eyes and a silent commentary along the line of, “here we go again”.

However, try to put yourself in their place and imagine that you have, for example, a minor car accident on your way to work. Your car isn’t badly damaged and you can eventually be on your way, albeit now running late for work. The first thing you are likely to do when you arrive is to announce the accident to everyone. Will that be the end of it? I don’t think so. Maybe your neck will start to hurt and you get a splitting headache because you’ve suffered a whiplash injury. You will undoubtedly tell people about this and it will probably necessitate you telling the whole story of the accident over again. You may find that you continue to tell the story of this incident for days or even weeks afterwards.  This is how you process what has happened to you and helps you to get over the shock you have suffered.

A few years ago someone I know ruined Christmas for everyone else. This person has a mental illness and was under a lot of stress but their behaviour was incredibly abusive and had everyone walking on eggshells for fear of setting off another torrent of rage. The end result has been a fracturing of several family relationships. The whole event left everyone feeling battered and shattered. Even now, some of us feel as though our hearts have been lacerated because we’ve had to distance ourselves from this person.

For months afterwards I personally kept telling friends who weren’t there about how it had felt; the shock, disbelief, anger and fear caused by the perpetrator of the abuse.  Eventually we were all able to move on and accept that it was that person’s mental instability that caused their behaviour . However, I am certain that I was only able to do this because I talked about it so many times with close friends, other family members and a therapist. There was something about letting all those awful feelings out that allowed me to let them go, simply because I had acknowledged them and had them validated by people who have listened to me.

So the next time you feel impatient hearing someone else’s story for the second or fifth or tenth time, try to be present with them, make sympathetic noises and don’t offer advice on what they ‘should’ be doing. When they’re ready, they will stop telling their story because they will no longer need to.

© Jane Gillespie 2017

http://janegillespie.com.au/counsellor.html

 

 

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