Collective Suffering Affects Everyone Differently

Over last several weeks it’s never been clearer to me that we are all so unique and individual – yet we are literally all going through a 100% universal experience – a collective time of suffering and uncertainty. Everyone knows about coronavirus. You would have to LITERALLY be living underneath a rock to not be affected by it in some way, shape, or form. The struggle is shared and it’s real for each of us, but it’s also affecting each of us differently, and that’s perfectly okay. 

And like I wrote about here, we’re not all struggling in the same ways through the COVID crisis or the clusterfuck that is the year 2020 so far. And that (not struggling in the same way through the same thing) goes way beyond just this year or this giant shared trauma. I don’t make global statements often because there are usually exceptions to the proverbial rule, but here’s one I’m fairly certain I can say and it will be true 100% of the time: A Universal Event Does Not Equal A Universal Experience.

This is often something my clients, and frankly, all of us need to hear because it gives us much needed permission to be exactly where we are, feeling exactly how we feel, without deeming ourselves broken or bad or inferior or whatever because Sally Woohoo is in a different place feeling different ways about the same thing.

You. Are. Not. Sally. Whoohoo.

You’re you.

Now, the events in your life are probably not totally, 100% unique. Take any one thing in your life and there’s probably been someone else out there who has had something similar (if not nearly identical) happen to them too. BUT. Your story about that experience, the way you felt it, the way your brain processed (or is still processing it), the way your body responded then and the way your body responds now – that IS 100% unique to you.

And that matters. A Lot.

But sometimes, we feel like it doesn’t. We down-play our story because somewhere, somehow, we came to believe that if it wasn’t totally unique, it didn’t matter.

Listen, I’m fairly convinced there are no more unique story lines to be had. There are no new plots for books or tv shows or movies left in anyones brain, anywhere. They’ve all been told. So, why do we keep making new tv shows and buying new books with stories we’ve already read?

For the characters.

We come for the characters – for the people! Because even though we’ve seen a <insert predictable plot line here> movie before, we’ve never seen this character do it. We’ve never seen it portrayed by this actor before. We’ve never seen it told from this perspective or this cultural background or considered it from that angle before.

It doesn’t matter to us that the events in the story are tired and boring and routine and not surprising because the character in the story is what makes it all matter.

Lemme say it again – it’s the character in the story, not the story itself, that matters the most.

You, the character of your story, are what matters most.

Yes, other women have been cheated on.

And yes, other women have been abused.

You’re not the first kid whose well-intentioned parents were accidentally absent, and you won’t be the last.

Yes, other people’s parents divorced when they were kids.

And sure, a lot of kids are bullied in school.

You’re right, These Things are not new.

And I know your inner critic snuggles up right next to you when something triggers all the left over feelings from those things in your past you think shouldn’t be a big deal and says “Get over it – plenty of other people had this happen and they’re doing just fine – why are you making such a big deal out of it?”

Tell ‘em I said “Because it IS a big deal”.

Here’s the best, most hopeful part: if you can start to honor your own story and let it be the big deal that it is, you can actually start celebrating the fact that The Thing is not unique to you. You’ll realize that the universal-ness of The Thing can help you feel connected to others. You can feel less alone because you ARE less alone.

And then – you can celebrate and honor and embrace your own particular way of moving through and dealing with how The Thing showed up in your life.

However you feel, however you struggle through a season of collective suffering, it’s okay. There’s room for you too. Because a universal event does not equal a universal experience.