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Hugs or Beliefs?
I was just thinking of this.... as I was thinking of Nelia.
N says she feels alone. Sometimes, so do I. And my partner often does.
Let me give more background. Nelia has been raised to be what is called a Catholic. I am pretty sure she calls herself a "Catholic" - kind of like I used to call myself an "American."
I wrote something to her about our beliefs being different. My partner and I don't believe in any gods or any after or previous lives.
Nelia wrote this to me today
A couple days ago I asked her to write an imaginary letter to her mother, and including the mother's imaginary, ideal, reply. In other words, I asked Nelia to try to imagine what reply she would like from her mother. So now I will do the same. I will imagine a conversation with Nelia.
(But now I am starting to get that tingly feeling in my nose which tells me I am going to cry... and my eyes start to form the tears.... because I know how much pain there is inside me from the ideas I want to express here and the feelings I want to express in this convo... maybe it is too much to write about now. I am afraid it is but I will try....)
S: Nelia, could I talk to you about what you said about your beliefs
S: Ok thanks.
(It is getting harder to continue writing this imaginary dialogue.... I remember her imaginary letter to her mother... and how Nelia didn't know what she wanted her mother to say, but she didn't feel satisfied with what she had imagined her saying... sorry if that doesn't make sense - I will try to explain more later, well now I will say it is because Nelia doesn't know what an emotionally supportive kind of reply would be like so she can't even imagine one. Anymore than I could imagine what an alien would look like other than the aliens I have seen in movies. So one thing I want to do with my life is help people like N see a new way of comunicating - an emotionally supportive way..... but back to my convo...)
S: I feel a little locked out when you wrote what you did. A little rejected. A little distanced. I felt more alone. Less understood. I questioned how sorry you felt really. Now, how are you feeling right now, so far in what I am saying?
N: I feel bad that you felt that way. I want to hear more about how you feel and why. I feel sad to think you feel more alone. I feel sad to think of losing you as a friend.
S: Ok, then I will continue. I also feel sad to think of losing you as a friend. I feel sad when I think of how people in the world have become divided by religious beliefs instead of united by feelings and emotions. I remember writing "beliefs divide us, emotions unite us" and I want to explain to you what I mean. How open do you feel to hearing my explaination now, from 0-10?
N: 9. I feel just a little defensive and insecure that you might say something which makes me feel less sure of my beliefs.
S: Ok, I'll continue then. Well, like in this case. You believe in God and I don't. We could argue and debate about whether God exists or not. I could try to get you to believe what I believe or you could try to get me to do the same. By the way I really felt offended when people in the USA would tell me I am going to hell because I don't believe in God and Jesus. And many of them would try to convert me. I got really sick of it. So anyhow, how ok is it if I keep going? Or how are you feeling?
N: It is ok ten. I am feeling interested to know what you want to say and why you feel as you do. And I feel bad that the Christians there, or to use your way of saying it, the people who call themselves Christians, did that to you. It also makes me sick when someone else tries to tell me I am going to hell because I don't believe what they do. I also don't want to argue or debate. I just want to understand and stay your friend. I definitely don't want to lose a friend over our different beliefs. Friendship is too important to me. I don't know if it is more important than my beliefs. I never thought of it that way before. But actually.... well let me ask you now, is it ok if I continue or am I talking too much and not listening enough?
S: It is ok 10 if you continue.
N: Ok... well what I was going to say is that right now I need a friend more than I need my belief in God. They are both important to me but I feel ok with my relationship with God and I feel ok with my beliefs. There is no pain there. My pain comes from not having friends and feeling afraid all the time. You know, like feeling afraid to tell people how I really feel... afraid to be myself... You know?
S: yeah I do.
N: Ok. So anyhow, I guess that is what I wanted to say. That our friendship is important to me. I really need a close friend and to be honest you are the best friend I have in my life right now even though we only started talking a week ago! That is pretty sad, isn't it?
S: yeah, it truly is.... and I feel bad to know you have been starved for friendship, real friendship, for so long. Yet I am also thankful that you found my site and that we are talking this way now. I feel relived also that you haven't gotten defensive. I could almost never talk to people who called themselves Christians in America. They got defensive so quickly. I just gave up trying to talk to them. So anyhow, what you are saying about friendship is pretty close to what I was thinking actually, (as I guess it should be since this is an imaginary conversation that I am making up from my side only ha ha).
But anyhow, here is what I was thinking and why the article is called hugs or beliefs. Basically, when you are feeling alone, a belief might help you feel better. But I suspect a hug will help you more than any belief anyone has ever come up with out of all the religions and philosophies on earth in the history of mankind.
In other words, when you are feeling so sad and depressed and hopeless and alone that you are thinking of cutting yourself or killing yourself, I supect a hug from someone who cares would help you more in that moment than even thinking of God or Jesus or how much you "believe" they love you. Now I put the word believe in quotes to emphasize that you can believe someone loves you, for example, you might believe you mother loves you, and you might even "know" she does, but you still might not feel loved, not in the way that you need it. And you might not feel safe cryiing in front of her and telling her all your true feelings and fears and pain. Yet you still "know" she loves you. So this knowledge is not helping as much as a simple hug from a person who cares, listens and shows they understand. What do you think?
N: Yeah actully I never thought of that before but you are totally right. I do know God loves me and that my mother loves me and has good intentions, but it doesn't help sometimes. It just isn't enough to know it. I have to feel it, too.
S: Ok. I'm glad you agree. I feel relived cuz I was afraid 7 that you would feel defensive.
N: No I really didn't. I just felt understood more I guess, and kind of enlightened cuz it makes so much sense. I like how you explain things. You make things very clear with your little examples ha ha.
S: Ha ha Thanks. I try.
N: Ok so what else?
S: Well, ok so let's say two people start talking about their religious beliefs, like let's say you and I. I say I feel sad that we have such different beliefs. Now at this moment there are at least two things you can say. One, you can say something like, well that is just the way it is. I'm sorry, but my beliefs are very important to me. How do you think I will feel?
N: Probably not very good. Now I feel guilty because that is pretty much exactly what I said!
S: Yes, it is. ha ha. Ok now here is another option. Do you want to hear it?
S: Ok, another option is you can say, "Why do you feel sad?" Then I would say something like I feel sad because I am afraid it will create some distance between us and hurt our friendship and I know that you need a friend and I also need a friend. I have lost a lot of online friends over the years. Too many. It really hurts to think of losing another. And in fact, I like the idea of us keeping in touch and maybe meeting one day. We are so close now geographically but I will be leaving this area soon and I don't know when I will get back. My partner and I don't make long term plans really. We are always trying to stop our most immediate pain.
So anyhow, yeah, it hurts a lot to think of us debating about religion instead of talking about our feelings. I care how you feel. To me, your feelings are the most special part of you. As I see it if you would have been raised by two Hindu parents, you would probably have Hindu type beliefs, just as if you had been raised in France your first language would be French. But that doesn't make you who you are. I think your feelings are the main source of who you are, whatever that really means. Make sense?
N: Yeah actually it does. I never thought of it like that.
S: Ok. So now if I tell you that I feel sad at losing you as a friend, what is a good response?
N: I guess it is better to give a hug than to say something like "That's just how life is" or "You can't always get what you want."
S: Yes. I agree. And if you ever have kids I really hope you will remember that and you won't repeat the things you learned before you met me and found EQI.org. I hope you will connect with your kids on an emotional level and give them a hug when the feel sad, rather than a little lecture about life! Agree?
N: Yes. I totally agree. Thank you so much. I know you won't like this but I think God has sent me to you. ha ha. Or God sent you to me, whichever way you want to say it. But since you don't believe in God. I won't say "Thank God I met you. I will just say Thank you Steve Hein. You are a very special person and very important in my life. I really can't thank you enough.
S: Yeah, just keep sucking up to me. Flattery will get you everywhere!
N: Ha ha
S: Ok now there is one more thing I want to say, ok?
S: I would feel better if you didn't sound like you were so fixed on your beliefs. The way you said it made it sound like "This is just the way I am and I will never change." I would feel better if you said it more like "Well, right now this is what I believe and my beliefs are very important to me. Without them I'd feel very lost and more depressed. But I guess they could always change in the future. I do want to be like one of those people who have closed minds." See what I mean?
N: Yeah. I'm sorry I didn't say it that way and I actually agree with you again. You are pretty good at saying things I agree with!
S: Yeah, I know.. I'm wonderful ha ha
N: Yes, you really are. And I mean that.
S: Thanks. Okay.... Thanks for listening.
N: Thank you for everything. You give me so much to think about and so many new ideas and so much hope for the future.
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