Your Personal Experience
Can you recall times in your life when someone presumed to be an expert on your experience, or your intentions? You didn’t listen to me because you don’t care…you would have remembered if it had been important to you…you hurt me on purpose.
I recall a moment when I knew with certainty that no one in the universe shared my personal experience, only similar experiences. Standing beside my brother on a spring day in 2011, minutes after our father had taken his last breath, I awakened to the reality of a private experience that would never be repeated. I hadn’t just lost my dad; I had lost a relationship that no one else had. As close as the three of us were, I didn’t have my brother’s relationship with our father, and he didn’t have mine.
My brother and I spoke at our father’s memorial service, describing the same person from our different experiences. I felt a special connection to my brother that day, recalling precious moments in our shared history. It was the same history, but not the same experience. Furthermore, each person attending the funeral stood alone with a personal experience of my father. And as we stood together in respect for a life that we knew from the outside, not one of us was an expert on my father’s personal experiences.
Married for 62 years, Mom knew Dad better than anyone. She knew when he was worried about something. I could never tell…he tried not to show it…but her experience informed her of the signs. Still, her experience was not his. His efforts not to appear worried may have been his way of protecting her. I cannot be certain about his motives.
The next time someone shares their expertise about your intentions, you can try, if you wish, to comprehend why thy are so certain. You might even ask, “What makes you think that?” Confidence in your personal experience can help you avoid being defensive or angry in response. You can be curious instead, which may help the speaker suspend certainty, or make you aware of something useful. Practicing mindful awareness…of self and other…and keeping an open and flexible mind, are good for your relationships and your emotional wellbeing.
In mindfulness, the ONLY thing we have to share (or teach) is our personal experience. As the oldest of 3, I certainly did NOT have my 2 younger brother’s experience with our father.