The Power of Our Memories by Ed Bonapartian

The Power of Our Memories

by

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. – Carl W. Buehner

If I were to ask you to name a key ingredient that all Highly Sensitive people share, how would you answer me?

For me, that ingredient will always be our empathy: that uncanny ability we have to feel a person’s experience and automatically react to it.

These reactions are not necessarily a bad thing. It simply depends on which side of the fence you approach them from.

I’ve always viewed my empathy as an additional sense no different from my hearing or eyesight as these too, occur simultaneously.

What makes our empathy unique is the residual effect left in its wake. Empathy is what people remember us for because our interaction has left them feeling differently afterward.

And sometimes, this interaction is just powerful enough so that the memory of it is never forgotten no matter how much time has elapsed.

Many years ago as an adolescent, I experienced the gift of empathy while attending grade school. A shy introvert dealing with the emotional toll of my mother’s alcoholism, I lacked the social graces needed to be popular with my classmate.

Due to my shyness and hating to be called on, I always sat in the back of the classroom. Unknown to my teachers, my poor vision often prevented me from seeing what was written on the blackboard but I wasn’t about to look like a geek by wearing glasses.

Needless to say, my grades and homework were never the best. Since I hated being told what to do, I had a bit of an attitude with my classmates who certainly never wanted me in any of the group projects we often were assigned.

One of the worst classes for me was our mandatory music class. Taught by a young, rather rigid woman my openly rebellious attitude often landed me sitting out in the hall or in the Principal’s office.

However, she wasn’t about to let me sit in the back of the class and twiddle my thumbs. So it was no surprise when she called me to her desk and handed me a thick stack of music sheets to hand out to my classmates. She no sooner handed me the music sheets when I dropped them all over the floor scattering paper in all directions.

I was mortified. Being that I hated to be the focus of attention this was as bad as it got.

Looking down at the floor, I could hear my classmates snickers and giggles.

As I bent down to start picking up the paper, I heard the scrape of a chair. Looking up, I saw that one of the most popular girls in our school had left her desk and was coming over to help me.

Without saying a word, she gathered up the papers and handed them to me with a warm smile. The class had gone silent as I stood there dumbfounded but managed to stammer an awkward thank you.

It wasn’t pity I saw in her eyes when she handed me the papers, but an acknowledgment of her empathy.

She had felt my emotional turmoil and reacted to it in a manner which reflected her values regardless of the different social circles we inhabited.

We remained classmates throughout high school and the few times I interacted with her she was always genuinely friendly to me. We were on completely opposite sides of the social spectrum, yet I had the feeling that through her empathy, she always saw me for who I was within rather than judging me strictly on my appearance.

The power behind that memory has stayed with me for over forty years. Often when thinking about those turbulent years in my life, the kindness generated by her empathy served as a reminder that there will always be people who empower us regardless of our environment.

This past week, a former high school classmate appeared on my Facebook “People you may know” feed. Through that connection, I saw her Facebook profile. Although I have no intention of contacting her, from the looks of it she continues to make a difference in people’s lives.

For the Highly Sensitive, empathy permeates our actions. Serving as a vehicle for our core values—guiding us in directions leading us back to our true selves.

And, it is during this journey that the power of our memories is created; a power, which when contemplated, contains the undeniable truths of our lives.

Have you had a similar experience of receiving empathy? Which memories continue to travel with you?

 

Pic credit via Silentpilot

Ed loves to share stories highlighting the connection between Highly Sensitive People and the role intuition plays in their lives. He has self-published two books; Reflections on the Art of Balance, and The Stories of Our Lives.

2 Comments

  • Tina

    I had a similar experience with an older boy in our neighborhood who was named Nicholas. I was also shy and sensitive and by the time middle school came around, all the girls in our neighborhood who had played with me when we were younger suddenly started lining up behind one girl in particular — a girl who used to be a friend, but now became a merciless bully who usually focused her meanness on me. She did (I found out later, when she tried to make amends) b/c her parents were alcoholics, but probably also b/c she knew what she did would land. I often cried, silently, or withdrew further into myself. Luckily I had friends at school, and she wasn’t brave enough to attack me there. But of course I felt betrayed by all of the girls. And completely unworthy.

    Nicholas was an older boy who was also quiet, a little chubby, and delivered the newspaper in our neighborhood. He moved in, and shortly after, he would say hello to me at the bus stop, or around the neighborhood. His eyes also said that I was worthy, that he understood what was happening. I would sometime walk with him on his paper route and we would talk. He always listened, and he made me feel seen and heard.

    He moved away after a couple of years. But when we were naming our oldest son, and trying to find a name that had only good connotations for us, I suggested Nicholas. I was always doubly shy and reserved around boys, and over my lifetime had some difficult and painful interactions with boys and men. But that young teenage boy made connection feel easy and nourishing, without any pain or danger b/c he accepted me fully, and had deep empathy. I’ve never forgotten that.

    • Ed Bonapartian

      Tina,
      Yes, that’s exactly what happens; we never forget the empathy extended to us. What a beautiful way to honor your friend Nicholas from childhood. Thank you for sharing your story!

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