To Be There For Another

December 7th, 2012

Once in a while there may be people in our lives who more than anything else, simply need someone to be present for them; to share in their fears and their suffering. Lost in their own pain, they may yearn to be listened to in a truly empathetic fashion; to be truly heard and to feel less alone.

There may be also times of joy, when they miss the company of another, someone with whom to share the happy events of our life.  We are social people by nature and so often we just want another person to share the experience of life with.

When someone is reaching out to us, it can come in many forms.  It might be a phone call from a friend, or a fellow worker who opens up to share something real about his or her life.  It might be the look of pain on the face of someone that you encounter or a startlingly honest response when you extend a caring, “How are you?”

It can be an incredible gift for you to be that person who is willing and capable of lending the support so badly needed by another.  Often when ones troubles go unexpressed, troubling thoughts can just go round and round in one’s head, magnified by loneliness.  Sharing with another can be extremely therapeutic, even liberating.  There is an effective mode of therapy in psychology called “the talking cure”.   This is exactly what we are helping a person do in this process of being there for him or her.

This need to connect deeply can be present in any variety of relationships ranging from marriage to friendships or even a desperate stranger.  Our ability to recognize that need, and then be able to step forward to be deeply present for another are vital qualities affecting every relationship in our life.

As a therapist I have seen this often in couples’ relationships.  I have seen men who work hard to accomplish and provide for their families, but at the same time are not be truly present for their partner when needed.  Yes, for sure women are different from men and have different emotional needs, but I have noticed that men are at times oblivious to the emotional need of their female partners to be heard and understood on a deeper level.  Perhaps feeling that their role as a provider is enough, some men fail to develop the empathetic listening tools that might heal the wounded connection with their partner.

I would say to these men:  If things are not working well in your relationship and your partner appears troubled or distant, take a close look to see if you’re really being emotionally present for her. Are you listening quietly when she expresses her pain or her joys to you?  Do you acknowledge what she has shared; helping her to feel heard and understood? Are you able to hear what might sound like criticisms without over-reacting?  Develop the courage to talk to your partner and see if perhaps her unfulfilled need for you to connect on a deeper level may be what stands between you.

And what is the role of those who choose to be there for another?  First of all, it may be just to be there to be quiet and present and to listen.  Amazingly, that in itself is usually enough.  Often the person in need does not require advice or fixing.  They only need to be heard.  But there may be times when their helplessness does seem to cry out for advice.  Simple as it seems, validation may all that is required.

Yes, it can be a challenge to be able to step outside of one’s self to be there for another, but your reward will be the witnessing the positive difference that your presence may have made in another’s life.

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