You know that time when you felt like you had a real connection with someone?
Even as you read this sentence, you remember everything exactly, like it was yesterday – you know with whom and when it was.
There was a fire you never felt before, something that burned deeply within your core; like a spark that emanated from their being to yours, forming an electrical cord that inevitably brought you together.
Well… maybe it wasn’t like that for you, but it’s pretty hard to describe that intensity, so this is merely a representation of what could be explained a million different ways.
But sadly not all fires burn bright; some will burn out and turn to smouldering ashes in a matter of time. So, after the dust has settled, when things have fizzled out or just weren’t meant to be, it may seem somewhat apparent that you felt that connection alone; or at least more than the other person.
In these moments it’s easy to feel confused, rejected and question whether it was all even real. Especially if they move on before you do.
In relationships, we all desperately want to cling to a comforting notion that the other person felt the same. That we were two halves to a whole, two peas in a pod, that they were our soulmate, that we had something no one else had.
The hard truth is that they really didn’t feel the connection like you did.
Because they couldn’t.
Because no one can ever feel the same way you do.
Your feelings are yours alone.
Your emotions are unique to you, and will always be.
The way you feel is determined by your own perception, cognition and your own definition of love.
In conversation with others, we often figuratively say, “I know exactly what you mean” – when in actual fact we really don’t; because we cannot. We simply relate in our own way, through our own experiences.
Inevitably, comparisons between situations also frequently arise – and the usual ‘he/she has it worse than you’ judgments come with them.
But emotions are neutral – there is no better or worse.
What you feel is what you feel.
It cannot be adequately or exactly compared.
While relatively speaking, it may be ‘worse’ having a chronic disease than say, missing the bus – feelings cannot be categorised according to situations. As we know all too well – feelings are not always proportionate to situations!
Two people in the same scenario will feel its impact entirely differently.
As much as comparisons encourage a ‘bigger picture’ approach, they don’t take into account that we all have a completely unique perspective. Our bigger picture is never the same as someone else’s.
That is why it might be better to elicit understanding from people by asking “how would you feel if…” instead of directly comparing another’s situation, because this allows the person to empathize by imagining themselves feeling rather than trying to understand the complexity of how someone else feels.
There is really no use in telling someone how they should feel, because it’s an involuntary process that can’t be controlled, quantified or owned by anyone else rather than the individual experiencing the process.
Feelings catch us off guard.
Sometimes you wake up feeling anxious and you are not sure why; or you may be really motivated for seemingly no reason.
Sometimes you have ‘a feeling’ about someone, or something.
You simply cannot choose that.
There is a concept of “choosing happiness” out there that has emerged recently, especially on the internet; all this new age positivity which seems to be in fashion nowadays. No doubt it comes from a good place.
But think about it – for you to “choose happiness”, you would have to know what being unhappy is like. And seeing as no one would choose to be unhappy – you would have had to have that involuntary experience to then decide that you wanted to voluntarily discard it.
Therefore for you to be at the point of “choosing happiness” – you would have had to start off by being unable to choose it.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
So it logically follows that: we all feel.
Everything was definitely real.
Because it was real to you.
Your feelings were real.
And it was real to someone else too – just according to their own senses, not yours.
Their feelings were real, even though they weren’t the same as yours.
It can be really hard to accept that not everyone feels like we do; this is because as humans, we have that strong desire to relate, to belong and to compare so we can make sense of our own emotions; and so we don’t feel alone.
But it is so important to remember that we are all unique and everyone deals with things differently.
Why? Because it’s actually so liberating.
It enables us to just feel without condemning ourselves, without trying to suppress it, exaggerate it, or having to invent it so we can match what others experience and feel normal.
Additionally, if we accept our distinction, we are able to be less rigid in our ways of thinking when it comes to the feelings of others; that is, by not minimising their experiences, not assuming, not resenting.
We are all entitled to feel.
It’s what we do.
It’s what comes naturally.
We must release the expectation that others should reciprocate us identically or that they should or would handle things exactly as we do because this is inherently unrealistic and only causes hurt and disappointment.
The bottom line is – you can only be responsible for how you feel, how you act, how you react. There is no way around this. You cannot feel for someone else and conversely, they cannot feel on your behalf.
If there is any comfort in this: just know that they did feel.
It just so happens that your real was different to theirs.