MGU 205 | Reverse Comparison Trap

Are you often told that other people have it worse than you? This phenomenon is what Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen refer to as the Reverse Comparison Trap. When you share your sufferings with people, their immediate response is to compare your pain with that of others in an attempt to console you. The question is, does it help? Or does it worsen your sufferings? Jason and Whitney believe the latter – when you’re told that others have it worse than you, they essentially diminish your traumatic experience, worsening your pain. What then is the alternative? Join in the conversation and discover valuable insights on how best to handle your grief and that of others.

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Does Reverse Comparison Trap Alleviate Or Worsen Suffering?

There’s a subject that Whitney and I are deeply passionate about. We have talked about the comparison trap at length in various episodes here on the show. The framework that we observe with the comparison trap is that one’s self or people in your life will compare your life circumstances to someone that “has it better” than you. The framework of comparison is making ourselves or believing that we are less than someone, less worthy, less lovable, less successful, less impactful based on other people’s accomplishments, their material gains. That’s typically the framework of the comparison trap. One thing I was talking to Whitney that I’ve noticed come up a lot with people in my life and also on social media, is I don’t even know if there’s a term for it, Whitney. I don’t know if it’s the reverse comparison trap. I haven’t talked to you about this or anyone, so I don’t know what the term would be, but there’s an aspect of comparison that is opposite to what we frame it as, which is, “My life sucks because so-and-so has it better than me. I wish I was like them.”

Human beings desire to, I don’t know if it’s consolation or comfort or trying to get someone out of a funk per se. I’ll call it a reverse comparison trap until maybe we get a better term for it here, Whitney, talking about it. It’s the idea that when you’re down on yourself, you’re depressed, you’re anxious, you’re bemoaning your life, you feel like shit about yourself, certain people’s response to that is, “You could have it so much worse. Your family could’ve died of COVID. This one guy I read about in the media got into a car accident, lost his legs. This person over here had to put their dog down.” I could give many innumerable examples of this reverse comparison trap wherein they’re comparing your life to people that “have it worse” than you. The original version is what about people that have it “better” than you? This is an attempt to make you feel better about your life circumstances because people have it so much worse than you. One thing I’ve noticed is it never ends up working for me. Whenever people bring that up of, “What about so-and-so? Look how horrible their life is.” I don’t end up feeling better about my life as a result of that.

MGU 205 | Reverse Comparison Trap

Reverse Comparison Trap: Raise your awareness about other people’s pain, but don’t assume you can relate to it.

 

Why are you comparing my depression, my anxiety, my pain to someone who has more pain, more depression, who’s lost more than I have? This is a strange thing. I noticed that it happens a lot with people, not just with certain people in my life, but it seems to be an unconscious response in certain people trying to lift you up out of your trauma. It’s like, “This person is way more traumatized than you.” First of all, it doesn’t take away my trauma, my pain and suffering, and it makes me feel worse about myself in certain ways because it shows me that there’s even greater suffering I didn’t know about. I didn’t know about the guy who lost his legs. I didn’t know about the person who lost their mom to COVID. It never lifts me up out of the funk that I’m in. It never makes me feel better about my circumstances to hear about people’s circumstances that are subjectively worse.

I want to talk about this reverse comparison trap because I don’t think it’s talked about enough. I’ve noticed it being a repetitive human response. I don’t know what it is, consolation, maybe people are so uncomfortable receiving your suffering that they’re telling you this. They want to get you out of your suffering so they don’t have to deal with it. I don’t know what the psychological reasons are. I want to bring it up, Whitney. I’m curious if you notice this, if there are people in your life that you observe doing this when you’re struggling or going through a moment, and what we can do about it because I don’t find it useful personally. I don’t find it useful to compare ourselves in the original version of the comparison trap to people that have it better or more prosperous than us. I don’t find myself feeling less depressed, less bad about my life circumstances when I read about the people who have suffered through or risen up over these great horrors. I don’t end up feeling better. I’m curious if you see this reverse comparison trap in your life and how you feel if and when you’re on the receiving end of it.

I do. My first reflection on this is that I don’t think we’re that great collectively. I don’t think most people have the tools on how to support someone when they’re going through a challenging time. That’s what it comes down to. We stumble through it in general. That’s not a skill that many of us have developed because you have to be intentional about developing that skill. What we do is we want to help. We want to be supportive. We go through habitual reactions to things. That is my guess. As somebody who tends to be a fixer, a problem solver, I’ve started to notice my reactions to when somebody shares a hard time with me because my tendency is to immediately try to make that person feel better.

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As I have observed my tendencies as a people pleaser, that is part of it. I feel like it’s my responsibility to help somebody. It’s my responsibility to help them feel better, if I can try to prevent them from feeling sad or disappointed, it’s a desire for me to fix. That’s a fascinating thing. I have learned through other interactions and observing other people to do things like you’re describing, Jason. At least that’s what I used to do. I don’t notice myself doing that a ton now, but that’s because I’m working on it and I’m growing my overall awareness.

For a lot of people, they’re not interested in doing all that self-work or they’re not at that stage. They probably don’t even realize that they’re doing it, Jason. It’s so common, they don’t think twice about it. They think, “This is helping.” Unless you speak up on it and let somebody know it’s not helpful, it might be hurtful, then they may never realize it. There’s also the risk that you speak up on something being hurtful to you and they think, “This hurts Jason. This is Jason’s pain. This isn’t a big issue.” You bring this up here on the show though, it is relatable because we struggle so much with the comparison trap. Many of us have spent a large part of our life thinking about how we feel in relation to others. It’s fascinating because it’s such a fine line. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of what’s going on for people of different races.

Friday, March 19, 2021, I texted one of my friends who’s Asian to check in on her because I’ve been thinking a lot about her. For context, a few days previous to that, it was March 17, 2021, there was the horrific hate crime. I don’t know if it was a hate crime. The media has been confusing. In Atlanta, Georgia, eight Asian women were killed by a white man. It was in a spa or a massage setting. It’s fascinating for me because it’s so confusing. That’s one thing that’s been coming up a lot. Is it purposefully confusing? Is the media purposefully making it vague? How much of the news do you have to pay attention to in order to learn these things?

I’ve read articles and watched multiple videos and I still feel confused about it. My point is, I’m trying to raise my own awareness about what other people are experiencing in their pain, but not assume that I can relate to it. That’s an important thing to bring up because what I’m practicing and experimenting with is checking in on my friends that are people of color, that in this instance are Asian, and asking them, “How can I be supportive? What do you need right now?” instead of assuming. It feels uncomfortable because I don’t understand that pain.

That’s part of this too, Jason. We have a tendency to try to relate to people. If we can’t relate to them, we try to think of another experience that is maybe similar and that they were putting into context. Through my work on being anti-racist, I’m recognizing that I truly cannot relate to somebody who is a different race than me. I especially can’t relate because I have white privilege. For me to even try to draw comparisons is disrespectful or out of line. I’m trying to be careful about it. Truly everything is relative. Another thing I’ve reflected on is how many of us have experienced trauma in our lives, if not all of us. Life has a lot of trauma within it, but each of us experience different types of trauma.

It’s not meant to compare trauma and levels of trauma to one another. It’s not a competition. It’s not about who has better or worse trauma, but it’s acknowledging our traumas and not diffusing them because this is part of it too, Jason. That is that context of, “It’s not as bad as I thought.” To you, it doesn’t seem so bad, but to me, it feels painful right now. That’s important to acknowledge. It’s not about the comparison with others. It’s the relative to our internal state. If we are suffering, that is relative to times where we are not suffering, or we are suffering less, it’s not relative to other people who are suffering for their own reasons. That’s an important distinction and something worth digging into more perspectives on. A big issue that we have in our conversations about trauma, suffering and tragedy is that we immediately start to compare.

MGU 205 | Reverse Comparison Trap

Reverse Comparison Trap: It’s not a competition about who has the worst trauma; it’s about acknowledging our individual traumatic experience because suffering is relative to our internal state.

 

The word diminishing is so wonderful in this context. I believe when we’re in this mode of comparison, comparing traumas, comparing suffering, it diminishes a person’s experience on both sides. If someone makes a statement under the umbrella of, “It could be worse,” that’s usually the context, “It could be worse because.” It’s not only diminishing my experience of my personal trauma, suffering, my processing and whatever healing work I may or may not be doing around what I’m experiencing.

It’s diminishing the person, whether they know them or not, their experience of their suffering. Whether that person is a different race, gender, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, whatever that human has been through, it’s diminishing my experience and my processing of my suffering and trauma, and it’s also diminishing theirs. This context of it could always be worse, is not honoring the individual struggle to your point. This is a tangential thing, but it’s related, Whitney. I was thinking about how I sometimes have the urge to post on social media about the things I’m going through that are painful, difficult or traumatic.

I don’t do it a lot of times because I don’t believe personally that the public forum is an appropriate place to process those kinds of things with strangers or acquaintances. With Millennials, Gen Z probably, there’s maybe more of a precedence to do that. We see a lot of YouTube videos about breakups, about loss. I’m not shaming anyone for making that choice. I personally, though, as I was sitting with my pain, was thinking, “Is it going to help me process and heal the things I’m going through to make these things public?” For me, the answer is no because it’s a private individual journey when we’re healing from deep wounds and deep pain.

Some people might disagree. Maybe they find healing through posting a YouTube video or a TikTok about it. Especially for influencers and online celebrities, there’s almost this unspoken pressure to showcase all of your life in a lot of cases, “My dog died. I broke up with my girlfriend. I lost this.” It’s like a full open book. I’m not saying that’s a wrong choice. It’s just a choice I don’t want to make when I’m going through something that’s deeply painful and traumatic like a situation that I had that I don’t know if we’re going to discuss it on the show, maybe in an episode in the future. My point is that in the court of public opinion, I’ve noticed that when people do that, there is that response in the comments like, “You’ll get over it. You’ll bounce back quickly. Don’t worry about it. There’s another fish in the sea.” I’ll see those comments and it’s like, “We need to fucking stop doing this shit to each other.”

I know that people’s intention is probably noble in most cases. It’s a conditioned behavior of this is what we say to console someone or try and make a reference that it’s not that bad. My framework, my personal belief is that it’s diminishing. It doesn’t allow a person to have the full experience of navigating their suffering and navigating their trauma, which is a vulnerable individual experience. That’s why sometimes as an aside, when I see certain courses around healing or certain group coaching around healing, I don’t believe, in many cases, it’s enough to get to the nuance and the deeply personal elements of a person’s sadness, trauma and pain. It’s too much of a blanket approach in some cases.

I’m saying all of this because it’s important for us to increase our mindfulness when we have a friend, a loved one, an acquaintance who is suffering. To not diminish it through these frameworks of language of, “It’s not that bad because so and so. You’ll get over it quick, don’t worry. You’ll bounce back soon.” All of these are diminishing language, unconscious languaging. I’m bringing this up and we’re discussing it because I want to be more mindful with my language as you do, Whitney, and for you, dear reader. It’s important that we pause before we have an automatic response in these situations and consider the context of what we’re saying and whether it’s going to be helpful to the person that’s receiving it.

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There are a couple of things that I am looking up around how we can move through this. One is that you can look up phrases and start to learn different things that you can say to somebody that are mindful. For example, I typed in “how to respond to somebody,” and there were all these different Google queries that came up, and a website came up that said, “64 of the Best Things Ever Said to a Griever.” This is on a website called What’s Your Grief. I’m not going to go through all 64 of these phrases, but it’s helpful to learn these things and practice them. I remember also I came across a book, which I will have to try to find, but I remember it was a beautifully designed book. It had drawings in it. I wanted to learn more about how to talk to somebody who’s going through grief. I recognize that it’s not easy and I want to be prepared because grief comes up often in life unexpectedly, having some preparation for that time so I can show up and be as supportive as possible.

Number one on this list of the 64 things to say is, “There are no words.” That’s emphasizing that this is intense and maybe, even admittingly, I don’t know what to say or acknowledging like, “Nothing I’m going to say is going to make you feel better.” That’s part of this. Your grief reactions are normal and appropriate. That’s key too. Sometimes through that grief, we start to question like, “Is this as bad as it feels?” I remember when I was going through some experiences of this, I was afraid to talk to other people because I was afraid that they wouldn’t understand. If someone were simply to acknowledge it like that, it would feel comforting to me. You can ask them to tell you more. Maybe someone just wants to talk, and by saying, “Tell me more,” showing that you’re interested and that you care.

I’m not a huge fan of the phrase, “I’m sorry.” I feel like it’s overused. That’s also a knee-jerk thing that we say to people, but it feels a bit empty for me, personally. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it does for others. Remember that not every phrase is going to resonate with other people. It is the stumbling through a lot of this. There’s a lot on this list. I’d also like to talk about a couple of things that I pulled up, Jason, on the subject matter, which is the Theory of Relativity when it comes to suffering. I found an article on a website called Wila.org, which is Affordable Therapy for Everyday People. It’s a short article that says that recognizing that others have it worse doesn’t necessarily make it better, which is part of your point here.

The article starts off by saying, “Someone else always has it worse. Everyone has feelings. Everyone has ups and downs, yet we often feel that there are people out there suffering more than we are, and therefore we cannot allow ourselves to feel bad. We struggle when comparing our concerns to the concerns of other people. We often hear ourselves and others say, ‘It could be worse. I should be thankful for what I have. I need to stop feeling so sorry for myself or get over it.’ Suffering is relative. While having those thoughts may at times help us gain a healthy perspective on our own circumstances or reality, they may also be a way in which we invalidate our own experiences and suppress our current struggle. Regardless of the objective severity of the problem that we face, we still have our subjective reaction.”

They share a quote from Viktor Frankl, “A man suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If I pumped a certain quantity of gas into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind no matter, whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the ‘size’ of human suffering is relative.'” For those readers who are unfamiliar with Viktor Frankl, he wrote a wonderful book called Man’s Search for Meaning that has helped a lot of people understand suffering and traumatic experiences because it was written during the Holocaust in his time in a concentration camp. It’s an intense, meaningful book because he was going through a horrific experience in our lives as human beings, but he still found a way to find meaning in that experience. It impacted me.

The article goes on to say, “The reality is that suffering, much like other human experiences, is relative. Our personal ordeal is not to be brushed under the rug, because comparatively, it’s not as painful, stressful, or horrifying. Validating our own feelings, minimizing them and rejecting them can often be harmful to our wellbeing. It may lead to increased negative feelings, withdrawal, isolation. In other words, denying our suffering only because it doesn’t reach some ‘ideal threshold’ of adversity or torment can create further suffering.”

The article is written by a therapist named Samantha Liberman, who said that you can work through this by accepting your feelings, assessing your needs and understanding that it’s a both/and not an either/or. Meaning that acknowledging the feelings and thoughts that come with our circumstances does not disqualify us from also having empathy for others dealing with “worse” because the two are not mutually exclusive. That’s helpful for me. We can feel our feelings and have compassion for others too. As a matter of fact, Samantha says, “By coming fully in touch with our pain, we’re likely to be more present to other’s journeys.”

That’s such a valuable content you shared, Whitney. The other thing that comes up for me as offshoot of this is when we feel guilty for “having it better” than other people. That part of this comparison too, is that if we emerge from our suffering and we’re in a process of receiving blessings or abundance, I have noticed for myself that I sometimes feel guilty for receiving certain things. There’s the not-enoughness conversation of, “I don’t deserve it,” but then there’s the side of, “Am I not able to relate to the suffering of others anymore?” An example of this, summer of 2020, I was accompanying my mentor, Michael, to a liquor shop, a wine store in his neighborhood. He wanted to pick up some stuff for his husband, Kevin. We were talking to the shop owners about, financially and energetically, how they were doing during the pandemic. He mentioned, being a wine and liquor store, that they were doing gangbusters.

MGU 205 | Reverse Comparison Trap

Reverse Comparison Trap: Denying your suffering only because it doesn’t reach an ideal quote threshold of adversity or torment creates further suffering.

 

Their business was great, and they were healthy, and everyone was great. He said, “I feel guilty about it.” I don’t know this guy, I just met him. I said, “Why do you feel guilty about it?” He said, “There are so many people suffering right now.” He felt guilty for them doing so well financially. He said they were doing better than they had done in 2019 because drugs, alcohol and other escape mechanisms do well any time of the year. We had talked about this in previous episodes, binge drinking and alcoholism increasing during the pandemic. As an example, he felt guilty. He felt bad for doing so well when others were suffering. On the block that this liquor store is, there are homeless people. When we are not suffering per se, or when we are “doing well,” or we’re abundant and healthy and things are well in our lives, we feel bad about it.

Does that help? It goes to the motivation, Whitney, of is that thinking the thing that spurs people to make donations, to feed the homeless, to volunteer with different organizations for people that are “less fortunate.” I wonder if, under that context, guilt could possibly be a good thing, but it’s an interesting thing to observe when people say that like, “I feel bad for doing so well when others aren’t.” Not just during the pandemic, that could be a reflection any time of year at any moment in history. Since the dawn of human civilization, there’s been oppression, classism and systems being rigged to benefit certain people.

“Doing well” while others are suffering, we could see that at any point in our lifetime truly. Psychologically, I find that curious too when people feel bad for having good things happen in their life. I’m saying it because I noticed myself doing it. I wonder if when I do that, it’s keeping good things at bay because I feel bad about receiving good things. I wonder if, energetically, I’m pushing those things away because I’m like, “No. I need to keep suffering so I can relate to people.” I’m still trying to figure that out for myself.

It leads me to another article I found from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. This is a 2014 post from Robert Johnson who wrote about whether or not there’s a scale of suffering. He starts off by saying, “It’s an important question in human society. Although the capacity of humans to say to each other, ‘I am suffering’ means that in some ways, determining the level of suffering has become secondary and in many developed nations, we now consider any suffering at all to be unacceptable.” That’s fascinating to think about. We have the privilege, being in a developed nation, to try to avoid it. That’s one of the big themes of this show and the reason why it was called This Might Get Uncomfortable. Why are we so obsessed with avoiding discomfort and suffering? This is part of it.

For me as a fixer or the tendency of wanting to solve things, it’s like, “I’ve got to fix it. I’ve got to make it better all the time.” What I’m trying to learn is that it’s okay if things don’t get better, it’s okay if things are slow. I don’t always have to have control of it. It doesn’t always have to be rushed. Sometimes sitting in something is the best way to get through it. The question going back to this article about which suffering is worse is to risk the wrath of many who feel that all suffering should be held, in principle, equally bad. The question is often dismissed before discussion can begin, yet the reality that there are differences in levels of suffering is an important concept, especially as this article is touching upon the legal system.

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It would be challenging to deal with a crime without the understanding that some forms of suffering can be worse than others. That’s a great point. It’s entirely rational to suggest that if suffering exists, then there must be a scale of suffering in some way. For example, the author says, “Pricking your finger on a thorn is generally preferable to being tortured in a POW camp. The difficulties arise with the acknowledgment of human subjectivity. Suffering is not a phenomenon that can be precisely measured. While we can devise laws to account for generalities and obvious disparities, we find when we try to look closer that in fact it is not possible to create a scale of suffering that can cope with any great degree of specificity. A modest push is not, in all cases, preferable to a violent attack. Psychological factors can influence the suffering experienced.” That’s a great point too because it’s relative to how your brain works. “Often, the cultural baggage attached to certain acts and events can be the primary source of suffering.”

“Any attempt at a specific scale will run into difficulties arising out of the differences and subjective experience that can, for some people, make the most modest forms of aggressions worse than extremely violent ones.” Every person is a unique combination of genetic and experiential circumstances, meaning we all experience stimuli differently on a mental level. “As suffering is an intensely mental experience and as mental experience is highly subjective, any attempt to devise a scale of suffering is on shaky, rational ground.”

“Each person, undoubtedly, has a scale of suffering particular to themselves though, even that is likely to change over time in response to experience. We should and usually do feel comfortable making obvious and general judgments about extreme forms of suffering relative to the comparatively trivial. Our function as a society depends on this ability. We need to lock away rapists and murderers, but we also recognize that less brutal acts deserve less harsh punishment. However, we should exercise caution when attempting to scale anything that causes significant suffering as we cannot be sure of exactly how it is experienced. The most horrific torture you can imagine is not necessarily the most horrific that someone else can.”

That reminds me when I brought up Viktor Frankl, you can look at this man and be like, “How did he write this book and find meaning in a concentration camp?” We look at that experience and think that’s one of the most horrific things a human being can go through. What that man documents in the book is, at times, hard to read, but he did find meaning in it. His experience in there was different from other people’s experience in there. I love the way that this philosopher, Rob Johnson, articulated this. I’m grateful to explore this, Jason, because it’s an important thing. Ultimately, we’ve discovered, through some of these articles, that it’s not fair or even possible to put a scale on suffering, and that it’s not an either/or, it’s more of an and.

Yet, we as humans do attempt to quantify it, don’t we? To your point with reflecting the article, on a basic level when you compare a paper cut to losing an arm, there are levels to it, but to your point, the subjectivity of a person’s genetics, their psychological health, their life experience and any trauma that they may have experienced previously. There can be situations. As an example, I’ve had people say that they’re terrified of interacting with a dog or a cat, because as a child, they got attacked by an animal. There is a subjectivity in this conversation that is core to it in the sense that if I approach a dog and I have no prior history of trauma around that, or it’s not reminding me of a past experience, my interaction with that present moment is going to be different than a person who has a history of trauma related to a similar situation. This comes down going back to how do we deal with suffering and trauma in the human experience without diminishing someone’s experience. Also, to your point, Whitney, not being able to fully relate to someone’s experience.

This is a difficult thing. How I feel received is when a person isn’t trying to fix it per se, or when a person isn’t trying to assuage my feelings by comparing it to someone else. There’s real healing and a power to being witnessed in your suffering, not with someone trying to fix it or take it away or make it better. The simple witnessing and being present with another person while they are in their suffering is such a simple and powerful act. Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything. Sometimes it’s better than not say anything and just be with someone.

Similarly, with our own personal experience of trauma or suffering, not trying to push it away, not trying to diminish it, not trying to talk ourselves out of it. “Suck it up. It’s not that bad. Keep going,” compartmentalizing it and pushing it down, which at some point in our human experience, we’re going to have to deal with it. This learned behavior of pushing away the pain, avoiding the trauma, acting like certain painful situations didn’t affect us as much as they did, that’s another coping mechanism. In my experience, at some point, it’s going to rear itself and it’s going to need to be looked at and dealt with at some point in our lives. For me, one of the most healing acts is when I am in deep pain and deep suffering is to be witnessed in it without someone trying to offer a solution because it’s not about offering a solution.

MGU 205 | Reverse Comparison Trap

Reverse Comparison Trap: Recognizing that others have it worse doesn’t necessarily make it better for us.

 

To the original point of this, when people say, “It’s not that bad. Try this. Have you tried this?” I feel rushed sometimes. You’re trying to rush me through my process or this idea of, “Run through the dark tunnel as fast as you can. Get to the light.” I don’t think life works that way. With some of the deepest, most painful experiences we have, we can’t rush through the tunnel to get to the light at the end of it. It’s that analogy that I’ve used before of, when Ram Dass said, “It takes the time that it takes for the snake to shed its skin.” If we try and rip off the Band-Aid or we try and pick the scab off too quickly, we don’t get a chance for the healing experience to take effect. It’s an interesting exploration, Whitney, of how we can support one another.

This might be different. For each one of us, the way that we process and experience trauma and suffering, again, it’s individual and subjective, because silent space holding and having presence when I am suffering is the most effective thing for me. It might be different for you and for the reader. My personal thing is I want people to witness me and hold space and shut the fuck up. Don’t say anything. Be here with me and love me in a silent, loving space. That’s my thing. For each person, it could be different. I’m curious, is there a way, when you’re going through something, Whit, that you prefer to be witnessed or loved in that way? Do you have a different version of that?

I like to be heard as well. I’d like to feel open to express myself without judgment. It is tough when somebody starts getting solution-oriented. If they’re not listening, they might pose solutions that don’t fit the situation. One thing that’s tough for me in general, suffering or not, if I have a question, if I’m trying to work through something and I genuinely am looking for advice, it’s frustrating for me when somebody doesn’t check in to see where I’m at first. It doesn’t seem like they are aware of what I’ve tried. That’s frustrating because I’m somebody who tries a lot of things before I get help from someone. It’s so irritating when somebody gives you a solution and you’re like, “I’ve already tried that. That doesn’t work.” It’s helpful to get some more context and ask somebody once they tell you if they’re asking for solutions, “Can you walk through it together?”

This is helpful for me too in my coaching and something I’m working on is checking in with someone as you’re giving them a perspective or advice to make sure that that’s working for them. It’s frustrating if someone sits there and listens to you spout off some things and at the end, you’re like, “Thanks, but that’s not what I needed. That didn’t help.” I feel frustrated. I like it when people are willing to accept that their opinion might not apply, their opinion might not be what I need, it might not be the right fit, and that’s okay. Sometimes as a people pleaser, I feel like I have to acknowledge somebody else in terms of they’re giving me advice and I feel like I have to please them like, “That worked for me,” where deep down it didn’t. It’s complicated. Part of the reason that many of us will isolate ourselves is because we’re afraid that our needs won’t be met.

One of the best things that we can do is ask somebody, “What do you need?” If they don’t know, you can then ask them, “Are you willing to explore together and find out what you need? Do you want to sit in that unknown? You don’t have to keep trying everything to see if it works. Maybe the answer hasn’t come to you yet.” You can let that person know, “I’m there for you when you have figured it out. Let me know.” I was thinking about that too, going back to my Asian friend who I had reached out to, I didn’t hear back from her. I have this tendency of like, “I want to check in. I want to make sure she’s okay. I’m concerned about her.” I stepped back and realized that’s, in a way, a little bit selfish because she might be going through a lot of pain.

That’s what I have felt from the Asian community is that this is incredibly painful and terrifying for them. Being an empathetic person, it makes me emotional seeing other people go through all that fear and that internal suffering. It’s horrific to see a community that you’re a part of go through that type of trauma. It’s still raw. It’s also interesting how Asian people are lumped into black people and it’s like, “You’re not white. You must all be experiencing the same thing.” They get left out. It’s like, “You’re Asian, you’re not black. It’s different.” I remember so distinctly hearing from anybody of color, anyone who’s not white, they were struggling and have been struggling. When Black Lives Matter was fresh and raw in mid-2020, what I was hearing from anyone of color, anyone who wasn’t white is that it was rough. It’s humbling for me.

That’s where I’ve learned to ask like, “What do you need?” Do more listening and less talking because I don’t know what they need. Every individual is going to be different. I can’t assume that I can understand or relate to what they’re going through. I’m grateful for it. I’ve talked about this before. If you, the reader, are looking for more resources, my favorite resource right now is Anti-Racism Daily. It’s a newsletter, you can sign up for free. You can support the author, Nicole. She came out with a book on mindfulness. She’s helping children become more mindful and take good care of themselves and targeting children of color. She’s doing phenomenal work. Her last name is Cardoza.

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That resource helps me. Every single day I read her newsletter and I look at the resources. She often shares petition, places that you can donate and thoughtful articles. She brings in speakers of all colors, including white people that share what they’re learning, their experiences, their knowledge. It’s helped me during this time where I’m trying to learn more about what Asian-Americans and Asian people, in general, are experiencing. I’m grateful, it’s also been incredibly humbling. I want to encourage everyone to pay attention to things like that. Racism is not our only issue. It’s not the only source of suffering. There are a lot of things going on, but that’s a place where we can begin and a place where we can learn a lot.

Developing compassion awareness is the beginning point for most of these things. It’s opened my eyes to different types of suffering. Not to the point where I’m turning away from it. It’s hard to learn about other people’s suffering, but if we don’t learn about it, as we know, Jason and I have talked a lot about our journeys as vegans, there are some correlations, it’s easy to turn your eyes away from what’s going on with animals, but it’s that journey of learning, witnessing and being committed to being part of a change. It’s something that I’m committed to.

We, as always, are curious how you are receiving and interpreting and feeling through the things that we bring to the show here, dear reader. If you have any reflections, thoughts, musings, personal stories around the reverse comparison trap or the nature of your own personal suffering or how you are navigating your responses to whatever trauma you might’ve experienced, we’re always an open book. We always love to hear from you through email. Our email is H[email protected]. You can email us at that address. Share your thoughts on suffering, healing, trauma, the difficult conversations or any new solutions or ideas you might have for how we can better support one another even if we don’t have a direct experience or a direct connection to another person’s suffering.

We’re curious to hear what your thoughts and ideas or solutions might be on how we can relate to one another on this level. You can follow us on all of the social media platforms, our handle is @Wellevatr. Until next time, if you are going through something right now, which it’s most likely if you are a human being on this planet, you are going through something difficult, challenging, stressful, traumatic, our hearts go out to you. We hope this episode resonates with you. Thank you for your support. We’ll see you soon.

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