Mind Matters: Sharing the pain

Have you ever had a day where everything seems to go wrong and nothing seems to work? Today was one of those days for me, and my spouse.

Transitions, as I have written about before, are not easy and this transition into a new life in Massachusetts has followed suit. We left behind an old house with a new addition which I have come to find out has been far better cared for and maintained than the “new” old house in Boston.

In just a number of weeks, we have dealt with broken locks, an attic to re-floor, a garage roof to redo, and leaking pipes. Before Thanksgiving, I thought, well, at least we could hang pictures — get them off the floor so we could finally sit in the living room. Past is prologue: this turned into a problem too. Apparently, the old plaster walls don’t cotton to having nails banged into them. The plaster crumbled and wouldn’t hold the nails. New skills and accommodations called for.

Needless to say, we are quite frustrated with all the obstacles that keep cropping up.

However, all the obstacles we encounter can’t compare with what poor people experience and refugees endure. While I fret about tripping over my stuff, I remember that, even with our downsizing, I have given up very little. Refugees leave everything behind; their focus is survival and keeping themselves and their families alive.

There has been a mix of emotion towards refugees and immigrants of late. Fear of the other is trumped up and we forget that even if we are not in that rocky boat across some sea, we are all in the same metaphorical boat of human connection.

Not sympathy, not pity, but empathy in this era of crisis is what we need. With sympathy we may feel sorry for someone and with pity there may even be a sense of superiority and a putdown of the other.

Empathy is being able to feel with another and identify with their suffering. When we are empathic, we are called to action to be with the other in some fashion.

Dostoyevsky said “beauty will save the world.” Many years later, Cardinal Martini expanded that idea: “The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain.”

If we don’t love and share the pain, what then, world? We are headed to difficult times ahead with an administration that appears to be the antithesis of empathy and compassion. That does not portend well for our country’s identity as a nation for all. Nevertheless, we can, as individuals, and in community, opt to continue what has been our national sense of care and compassion with liberty and justice for all, remembering that we indeed are an amazing melting pot of immigrants and refugees and it is that which has made us great: past, present, and future.

* The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to: editor@chaddsfordlive.com

About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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