I am in the business of helping people feel more. As a psychologist, it is my job to help people feel what they have pushed down, to guide them through their feelings and to help them cope with those feelings and come to terms with those feelings.
With the tragedies of Friday evening in Paris and Beirut, though, I think we may have forgotten how to feel. We can change our profile pictures, write our condolences in 140 characters and use the appropriate hashtags but, what are we really doing?
I think that these are mechanisms that keep us from feeling the tragedies at our core. Hank Green’s vlogbrothers video posted on Friday inspired me to write this today. He mentions how we need to sit with our feelings and allow them to engulf us. To do what makes us able to cope with our feelings. He reminds us that feeling is important and that he is feeling.
When we use a hashtag like #PrayforParis, we are forgetting that there are emotions that go along with it. Personally, I hashtag and I express my condolences and I message my friends to make sure they’re alright but, I forget to sit with it. I forget to think about the people affected, to empathise with them and feel with them and for them.
We are hiding. We are always hiding. Whether that’s when we hear about Syrians dying in the ocean trying to get to safe land or when we see photos of bodies strewn across the road in the 10e arrondissement. We hide from the feelings that threaten to overwhelm us and spring into action that often means so little.
Who am I serving by changing my profile photo or by reading a million tweets about Beirut? Though I may not be serving anyone by sitting here feeling for the people who have died and their families, at least I am feeling. And isn’t that the whole point? To feel for one another in times of tragedy as one people and one nation?
Today I am striving to hold my emotions and understand them. To understand my sadness for people I hardly know. To understand my anger towards a group of people I will never know. To understand my guilt for being alive and well while others who were better people than me are dead. To understand my shame for not really understanding any of it. That is what I will to do today. I will feel. And I think you should, too.