flickr CC image via jerine
One of the most insulting things we say to each other is "I know how you feel." Not one of us can ever truly know how any other of us feels about anything.
Even those of us who have shared a similar, or perhaps even the exact same experience... people's perspectives are as unique as their fingerprints. The variables at play in an individuals mind relative to the emotions surrounding their experiences are infinite... and different for all of us.
When we say " I know how you feel" to someone, the tacit message we're sending is your emotions aren't so deep and personal that I can't understand them... your emotions aren't complicated. To someone who is experiencing emotional jeopardy, someone who may not even understand their own feelings at the time, this is not a helpful message.
We can be empathic, or even sympathetic when necessary, without implying we know how others feel. It's a matter of how we say it... instead of saying "I know how you feel," why not simply say, "I hear what you're saying, just tell me how I can help." Doing so validates the emotions involved and acknowledges that although people can't truly know how others feel, they can still be completely available to those in distress.
In the complex arena of our human emotions, it is critical that we take responsibility only for our own feelings... we don't need to understand how others feel, we just need to be present and let them know we are completely willing to unconditionally share their feelings without judgement or comment.
Nobody can make us feel anything. Our feelings are only ours, and we alone are responsible for them. Don't take responsibility for the feelings of others... just be there when they're feeling them.