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Understanding Your Own Mental Pain Is So Much Easier
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Understanding Your Own Mental Pain Is So Much Easier

Two recent articles in the paper got me thinking about how difficult it can be sometimes to understand someone else’s distress or anguish. You may be someone who generally finds it easy to be sympathetic or empathetic but most people have experienced occasions when they just don’t understand the distress, grief or loss that someone else is feeling and have the urge to tell them to pull themselves together. Understanding your own mental pain is just so much easier.

Now one of the articles I was reading was about the struggle one women went through to conceive a second child. It seems there are an increasing number of women who get pregnant very easily the first time and then for no apparent reason fail to get pregnant a second time. This is known as secondary fertility and many fertility specialists are at a loss to explain why this happens.

Some women find the strain of not getting pregnant again almost unbearable and some resort to fertility treatment. Consultant Peter Bowen-Simpkins believes that couples who are unable to have a second child become very distressed particularly as people may say that they should be grateful for what they’ve got. He says that for the majority of couples, not being able to conceive a second time is as distressing as if they’d never been able to have a child.

As soon as I read this I wanted to scream. How could he compare the pain of not having a second child to the pain of not having a first one? As a woman who desperately wanted children and hasn’t had one – I was incensed. When I calmed down I realised that I wasn’t being rational. The fact is that I don’t understand the mental anguish of people who can’t have a second child because it’s out of my realm of experience. I only understand the pain I have experienced not having had a first.

Of course we can sympathise with people when we have never been in similar situations but when it’s a similar situation but with such different outcomes, it certainly makes it more difficult.

The second article I was read was written by the marvellous Erin Pizzey, who for over 40 years has been a family care activist and has saved many battered women’s lives and those of their children. She is incensed that the Home Secretary Theresa May is looking at whether the definition for domestic violence should be broadened to include ‘emotional bullying ‘and coercive control’

Pizzey argues very forcefully that it is wrong to compare women who have had to ‘literally run for their lives’ with someone who has suffered mental abuse and can walk away. I agree with Pizzey, I don’t think there is a comparison – but I disagree that those that suffer true mental abuse always have the strength or ability to walk away. It’s not unheard of for a women in that situation to take their own lives or resort to killing their partner.

I hope that they don’t change the law because I agree with Pizzey that there’s a danger of trivialising the horrors of domestic violence and resources being diverted from where it’s really needed. However, I recognise that any woman who has been brought to the edge of a breakdown from emotional abuse may disagree.

And that brings me back to my original argument. Understanding the mental pain or anguish of someone else can sometimes be extremely difficult. It’s one of those conundrums in life for which there is no easy answer.


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