The man today* said,
“Close your eyes and try to visualize
the last person who you saw who was ashamed
and see where you feel it in your body.”
I visualize my mother, trying to understand my brother kicking her out.
Then I visualize my ex, trying to make amends.
Awkward smiles, with a hint of sheepishness.
Rounded, slumping, stooped shoulders.
Looking older by decades since last seeing each.
I feel it in my stomach.
OK, now what?
The exercise was to teach each of us how to recognize shame
And how to connect to it, to cultivate empathy.
How do you empathize with a woman who pimped you out?
How do you empathize with a man who called you filthy names?
But I do.
They say it’s best to divorce your toxic family members.
They say an abusive narcissist preys on the kindness of their victims.
But she’s so old and frail, and now, soon-to-be homeless.
And he has been informally and formally diagnosed from that manual.
So I empathize.
And I care.
And I eat.
To pretend I don’t matter.
*I went to a seminar on human trafficking today and one of the speakers had us do this exercise in order to be able to empathize with the trafficking victims we work with.