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Caring, Regret, Change

Part 2

In part one of this true story I said that I forgot about the other person's feelings. To give a little more detail to this true story, the other person is a resident volunteer here at EQI. She had been washing some clothes by hand. I felt a need to prove to her that I could wring more water out than she could.

I knew that she was very sensitive, and I knew that she often felt inadequate and incompetent. I knew that these feelings came from her home, where her basic emotional needs had never been met. I knew that she had felt suicidal in the recent past. I knew that she had self-harmed for several years. I knew that she had come close to killing herself one day.

I wonder now, how I could "forget" all of this... But rather than being too hard on myself, I will say that I understand that my need to feel superior comes from many attempts by others, particularly one of my older brothers, to make me feel inferior. Now, as an "adult" who has studied abuse and dysfunctional families, it is obvious to me that my mother felt inferior as a child so she tried to make up for this by her attempts to feel superior to my brother. He then did the same thing to me to compensate for what was done to him. Now I am "guilty" of doing the same thing. And I feel bad about it. I want to stop doing it.

So what would help someone "remember" not to do something which hurts another person? Would it help if you cared about the person? Would it help if they were very important to you? I suspect it would.

Caring and remembering are probably somehow neurologically connected in our brains. I don't know exactly how, but I am sure they are. If you quickly forget someone from your life, it shows that they were never especially important to you, or that you didn't care very much.

I make a distinction between importance and caring. For example, if I am lost, wounded and starving then someone finds me, helps me and feeds me, I will probably always remember that person because they were important to my survival. On the other hand, if I am perfectly healthy and I meet someone, then get to know them, and I listen to their life story and feel empathy and compassion for them, I could begin to care about them without them being important to my survival.

This leads me to think of the word "value". What does it mean to value someone? What does it mean when a person says "I feel worthless?", as suicidal people often do.

In this case, I value the person who I was teasing. I value her in at least two ways. On a "practical" level, I value her because she is of immense help to me. She has been helping me write to the depressed teenagers, she has been handling much of my mail, she has been listening to me when I need to vent.

On another level, I value her for who she is and what she has to offer the world. I told her this morning that her ability or inability to squeeze water out of socks is not the most important thing about her. I told her she has many qualities which are much more important to the world. Her ability to listen and care for example. Her ability to empathize and understand. Her ability to know what is important and what is not. These are almost unmatched in our materialistic, competitive world today. I truly believe the world needs more people like her. I truly believe the world is a better place with her in it. I feel sincerely sad at the thought she almost took her own life.

Perhaps writing this is my own form of "penance" we might say for guilty feelings. But it isn't so much guilt as regret.

I want to write more about feelings like regret when it comes to behavioral change...so I will do that in Part 3.


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Part 3