Our favorite five-year old is Emma, the daughter of a woman who works part-time for my husband. Emma’s mother told me a story that I believe is blog-worthy. Since Emma was very young she has not liked noise. Even a handful of people singing her “Happy Birthday” is over her limit and she puts her hands over her ears.
This fall Emma started kindergarten. Every morning she cried, begged not to have to go and then her teacher reported she was miserable. This came as a real shock as Emma had enjoyed years of preschool without incident. As her mother worked at thinking through what was so different about kindergarten than preschool it dawned on her that preschool didn’t involve a bus ride. A noisy bus ride with dozens of boisterous children. Mom started driving Emma to school and now she loves kindergarten.
A lot of what I offer in therapy is seeing someone’s pain or difficult circumstances really well. Many years ago someone made a referral to me and described the client as “a jewel who doesn’t know it.” I think that’s true of most of the people I work with.
So many people are heroic on a daily basis within the confines of their very ordinary lives. They live with chronic pain, endure the death of a child, have a partner who’s an addict, watch a daughter go to prison for prostitution. They sometimes work in jobs where they are poorly rewarded and worse, made to feel invisible. So many of their stories remain untold because they’re too painful to share, too hard to hear for most people.
Be willing, to see those you care about ,enough to really see them. Hear their struggles, don’t sidestep them. Encourage them to be open by giving them the uncritical space to do so. Be like Emma’s mother who looked closely enough to see the problem even when her daughter didn’t have the ability to articulate it.