Thursday, April 23, 2015

Normalising Suffering

One of the reasons we are uncomfortable with people sharing things that matter to them on Social Media is our inability to act when seeing a call to action. For all the accusations that people are selfish flying around, put in a situation where there help is required and they can help - most people I have come across in my life are pretty helpful. If they don't feel helpless. If something personal and difficult is shared in public, that helplessness can make us get a little annoyed. It isn't a fun feeling. Hasn't this person learnt to keep personal stuff to a small circle?

There are dedicated spaces where we feel safer, both to hear and share difficult stories. Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins star in a great movie about a group of people dealing with addiction. In a space specifically set up for people to share, where they receive mentorship and support, and we know all that is required is a kind word - we are okay with listening.

One of my Aussie cousins is a psychologist who specialises in people dealing with pain. He said one of the things he works on with people is the ability to accept, rather than fix, pain. Many of us have this in built call to action when it comes to stuff that sucks. I certainly fit that bill. The reason I find yoga so appealing is because it is so practical. It basically comes down to exercise, food, breathing, relaxing and positive thinking. You can do something about it. Sometimes it is not about the nail. It is just about listening. I find that really hard. I think that is part of why we struggle with sharing real life tough stuff on social media.

Why do we need to? Well although I think we are growing up, I still think there is a disconnect between the story we think everyone else is living and the story we are living. There is a wonderful movie about Alfred Kinsey. He was a scientist who studied bugs. A subject not many people follow. Then he got married and had sexual problems with his new wife. So he applied his scientific mind to the problem. The first step wasn't to have an opinion. It was to gather information and reflect life as it is rather than as we think it is. His works on male and female sexuality highlighted the chasm between the reality of people's sexual lives and what they thought everyone else was or wasn't doing. His work started conversations where people could realise they weren't weirdos. It allowed people to start sharing.

My cousin describes the need for 'normalising suffering'. Once we accept the difficult bits as part of what life has on offer, they lose their magic power. If we were able to share some of our challenging bits, along with an 'I am ok, you don't need to do anything'/'I have support, you don't need to do anything', perhaps it would be easier for others to read.

We can't be upset that social media doesn't reflect our lives if we don't do anything about it. Unless all we want is cheese with our whine.

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