The Downside of Empathy: Don’t Put Your S*** on Me

Some people just love to tell you you’re going to suffer as they did. It’s very common with childbirth, parenting teenagers (especially girls), and even graduating from college.

These people position their experiences as universal. “You’re about to go through this, and therefore you’re doomed to suffer as I did.”

Such sentiment is entirely different from those who may have ‘Been There, Done That’ and wish to offer you advice to avoid suffering as they did.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about pure, “Oh, just you wait! It’s going to be horrible!” Often, people making such statements seem to revel in your impending suffering, as if they enjoy the justice of others being tormented.

I don’t get it. Times when I’ve suffered, I get no joy from the thought of others having the same experience. And I certainly would try to help them avoid it if I could.

Too often people utterly fail to recognize the fact that others may walk a different path. It is possible to move through the same experience without the same suffering. Their suffering does not guarantee that you will suffer in the same way. And their lack of boundaries can be cruel.

“Stay in College as Long as you Can. The Real World Sucks”

Yes, yes this was said to me, and repeatedly.

Of course, my personal survey sample was highly skewed. I interacted with recent grads who frequently returned to campus exactly because they weren’t happy with their new lives as grads. I did not get as many opportunities to interact with the many thousands of new grads who were quite happy. In hindsight, this is obvious, but I did not see it at the time.

I absorbed their suffering like rays of sunlight soaking into my skin. I felt as though I should be given cards of condolences, not congratulations at graduation. I graduated 18 years ago now, and I’m still a little pissed off at this. Pissed off at them for positioning their suffering as universal and unavoidable, and a little pissed off at myself for not realizing how absurd it was for me to take it on as I did.

The Horrors of Natural Childbirth

Now that I have come through on the other side of natural (un-medicated) childbirth –TWICE– I have the ultimate Badge of Credibility. I can’t recall an incident lately, but no one is ever going to say in my presence something as absurd as, “Natural childbirth makes as much sense as natural dentistry. JUST YOU WAIT! You’ll be begging for that giant needle in your spine.”

Yeah, I can and will shut that shit down.


That’s my face just as I gave birth to DS. DH ‘caught’ him and brought him up to put on my chest. Looks horrific, doesn’t it? 😉 Giving birth was a fucking amazing experience. Yes, painful. But amazing and joyful too. Physical pain isn’t always suffering.

The Torture of a Second Child

Recently a friend announced her pregnancy with her second child on Facebook. Someone commented, “As someone who has children the same age difference as you soon will, all I can say is:

Sure, it was an attempt to be humorous, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The statement that she will suffer as he did is still negative, even cloaked in humor.

Yes, I jumped in. The age difference is nearly identical to my children, 2 years and 8 months. And it really wasn’t bad. To be honest when my son was closer to 18 months, I would have found it torture to also have a newborn. But I would never say that to someone already pregnant!!

Thankfully, my friend appreciated my reassurance. Her exact reply included, “Channeling your positivity!” I replied, “I’m ALWAYS HAPPY to funnel positivity to anyone! After all, I need it coming my way often enough! ;)”

Lift Others Up, Don’t Drag Them Down

This is a fairly long post, but another thing I’m passionate about. I don’t enjoy making others feel bad or fearful, and I get angry when I see people doing it. It reminded me of this line from this article about high functioning anxiety:

You are a master at lifting someone up when they are feeling less-than because you live it every fucking day and will be damned if someone you love and care about is going to let these feelings control them.

Getting back to the, “real world sucks” nonsense, the song, “No Such Thing,” by John Mayer reminds me of it. Not my favorite style of music, but it’s a fun song & I won’t change the station if it comes on. I love these lyrics.

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above
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4 Responses to The Downside of Empathy: Don’t Put Your S*** on Me

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