I have a problem.
Like most people do, I try to talk to people about it. Maybe I need help in solving the problem. Maybe I just need to vent about the fact that it is a problem. But I need to talk about it, to seek out answers, and to set things straight in my mind. And to make those that contribute to the problem aware of it and maybe, just maybe, get them to stop.
But every time I talk about it to you, you start to tell me about your problem.
You tell me that it’s well and good to be aware of my problem, but I shouldn’t forget the importance of your problem. “It’s only fair,” you say.
And, on the surface, I suppose that is true. Your problem is there and it is real and it is important.
But, right here, right now? I’m talking about my problem. Maybe, just maybe, there’s another time and another place to talk about your problem.
And every time you bring up “valid points” that simply serve to change the subject, you send a very clear message: My problem is not important. Because it is not about you.
Then, when I describe what problematic thing others are doing to me or to people like me, you respond that you don’t do that. That there are other people that don’t do that.
Which is true, as far as it goes. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem. It doesn’t mean that my problem is any less real. And by being defensive about it, you’re once again trying to make it about you.
Once again, what you are saying is that my problem isn’t important. Because it isn’t about you.
So then I seek out others that have the same problem as me. People that understand and have similar experiences. And I talk about my problem and possible solutions, and share my pain and humiliation and heartbreak with them so that the shared burden is an easier one to bear. But you follow me there and, once again, try to insert your problem into the conversation.
This isn’t the time or place to talk about your problem. Because you are clearly sending the message that my problem, and the problems of these other like-minded people, are not as important as your problem.
It isn’t about you.
The hard part, I think, is that you are very used to it being about you. And so, when I try to share my pain and my struggle, it does not compute with your experience.
Because it’s not about you.
Instead of listening and learning about something others, and thus expanding your experience, you, instead, try to control it. To change the focus to more “important” points.
And this happens every time I try to talk about my problem. If it’s not done by you, then it’s by someone like you.
You have problems, too. I get that. And we can talk about them at some other point. There are lots of problems in the world and we need to fix them.
But right now, I need to talk about my problem. I need to have you be there and listen to what I have to say. You may not have a solution. You might can only sympathize. And that’s okay.
But don’t change the subject. Don’t get defensive. Don’t bring your grievances to the conversation. Don’t make it about you.
Because when I’m continually reminded that my problem is not important, that my experience is not as valid, because it is not about you?
I have a problem.