I heal when I'm heard. I need to feel it to heal it.
Most of us learn pretty early on not to express how we're feeling, pretty much because others can't deal. It's too hard to hear our pain, so our loved ones try to positive-think us out of it, or close down our communication before it really begins. "Up you get, you'll be right" we tell our toddlers when they've fallen over and reach out to us in pain, and so the disconnect begins. And that's physical pain, our discomfort with the emotional stuff is even worse! Because of that disconnect, we learn that it mustn't be okay to share our feelings.
Imagine then a foster kid, or a child who has lost a parent to cancer, or a kid who is being bullied, all who desperately need to share with you what's happening for them, but can't. How do they heal from their trauma, their loss?
I often hear parents and carers say "they tell me these stories, and I don't know what to do...what good is it me getting upset too?" They worry that their acknowledging the pain is going to make it worse. It won't. Some of the most comforting words are the most simple. "I'm so sorry that happened to you". Those words, said with true empathy, means you've heard. You can feel their pain, though you're not making it your own. You aren't trying to fix it...though ironically it will be the one thing that just might.
Some of the most traumatised people tell their stories with little emotion. In the industry, we call that a 'flat affect'. I believe it comes from having to tell of your experiences, over and over again, without ever having someone attune to the feelings behind it. It becomes the story you tell, not the feelings you feel. So the pushed down feelings continue to create chaos and disconnect.
That's why I tell the students that I supervise that the idea of the passive therapist, who remains stone faced, is long gone. This is so important for parents too. We all want connection, in fact we crave it. We want to feel heard, and we want someone to attune to our feelings. We heal when we're heard. We need to feel it to heal it!