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Digital Subscriptions > Life and Work > March 2017 > ‘I know how you feel’

‘I know how you feel’

Three contributors exp lain why offering symp athy to those suffering chronic or long-term illness is better than endeavouring to emp athise with their condition.
Photo: iStock

‘I KNOW how you feel’.

How often we say it. How often we hear it. How often we are told it.

‘I know just how you feel...’, ‘...exactly how you feel...’, ‘yes, it is just the same for me...’ and so on.

I am quite sure that it is usually meant to be reassuring and it is certainly true that it can often help a person facing an issue to know that they are not entirely alone in facing it, struggling with it, worrying about it or whatever.

But few of us find the assertion ‘I know how you feel’ to be entirely helpful.

Often quite the opposite.

For, of course, none of us knows, or can presume to know, just how another person feels. We do not share their experiences, circumstances or struggles.

As someone who has a chronic medical condition, I find it particularly unhelpful when someone tells me that they know exactly how I feel. People mean well, I think. But it really does not help.

As is the case with many other chronic health issues, multiple sclerosis has many different symptoms and often (in my case, usually) these can be hidden... invisible to the casual observer.

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About Life and Work

In this month's issue we learn about Godly Play, a different approach to working with children in the Church and we meet writer and storyteller Irene Howat.