Over the last few years, I've made a fairly interesting discovery. That is, that is can be very hard for me to truly empathise with people. I mean, it's not as though I don't understand when somebody is upset or hurting, it's simply that this tends to be an intellectual understanding and I don't really feel that I can feel their pain. Even when I hear about atrocities overseas, I struggle to get upset. And to be perfectly honest, this really upsets me, because who wouldn't be moved by seeing the suffering of others?
One of the things that I've learnt is that there is only one person whose distress really physically distresses me - and that's my mother. Actually, perhaps my first reaction is one of outrage, as in "How dare you feel upset - it's making me feel upset". After I get over that, my next reaction is to want to help, which genuinely tends to be fruitless. My next feeling is one of pure helplessness and resignation, knowing that there is nothing that I can do to help my mother or myself. Quite probably, she feels the same way. It's almost like we share this psychic connection that fuses our thoughts and emotions together.
The bizarre paradox about this strange situation is that in helping me feel grief in another's pain, my mother helps me to feel that I am human. That I am part of the human race. Struggling to empathise with other people and having difficulty getting other people to empathise with me can be quite a lonely phenomenon. And so that's why, in a profoundly strange way, I am grateful for the counter-intuitive way in which my mother helps me to realise that I am not alone.
Happy Mother's Day Mum, from your loving son David.