How to Comfort a Crier
Over the past few months, things worked out such that my closest friends and I got the chance to live together in Delhi. We packed a lot of life-living in that time, realising fully the vision we once had of living in a community house.
Now, unfortunately, it’s time for us to leave, as friends in adulthood often must. The wound is fresh. We’re closely aware of what’s possible when we’re together so it’s that much harder to leave it behind, but leave we must.
There’s a lot of grief that comes with leaving, and a lot of crying to let it out. It has been very tempting, during this time, to offer advice. Whenever I’ve seen my loved ones cry, I’ve gone looking for arguments or perspectives that can take away their hurt.
I’ve exercised restraint, though, and this time has made me reflect on crying, and how to be there for people when they are.
Emotions Can Be Shared
The advice you often hear about being there for someone is to listen, not offer solutions. I’m tempted to ask: what are the mechanics of that advice? Why does it work?
When someone has two heavy bags to carry, the best way to help them is to offer to carry one of the bags, not to tell them how to hold them. I think emotions work similarly: We have this magical power as humans to share our emotional burden. Being there, then, means taking on some of the burden ourselves.
We have this magical power as humans to share our emotional burden. Being there, then, means taking on some of the burden ourselves.
To Share, Not Solve
When people bear heavy emotions, advice be isolating. It can come across as, ‘this is yours to bear, I’m just telling you how to bear it.’
I think well-intentioned people are tempted to offer advice because we misconceive how we see emotions, as if they’re are inseparable from their owner. I think emotions, regardless of who they originate in, can be shared. And when we offer to share them, the other person doesn’t have to carry them all alone.
Most of the time, this kind of sharing looks like a tight hug. Sometimes, it can look like an offer to listen to them talk about their grief, or to watch a movie together that distracts them. It can look like a thousand other things, but they all say the same thing: you don’t have to do this alone.
📖 What to read this week
What’s the Point of Reading Writing by Humans? | Jay Caspian Kang
This is one of the more interesting questions to have come up in the ChatGPT craze lately. If ChatGPT could write this newsletter, would you be equally happy reading it?
We can disagree on whether A.I. can generate writing that could be convincingly passed off as mine—I think that, eventually, it will be able to do this—but I think you and I can agree that neither of us would want to read an article with GPT-4 (or 5 or 6) on the byline… I enjoy reading human writing because I like getting mad at people. Perhaps the personal quality in writing is a happy accident, and a lot of journalism could be replaced with an immense surveillance state with a GPT-4 plug-in. But the reason we read books and listen to songs and look at paintings is to see the self in another self, or even to just see what other people are capable of creating.