Written by Emily Phan, LMFT
The middle child is often noted for being the peace keeper in the family, the one who is close to both the older and younger children and can act as a bridge between the two when conflict arises. The middle class is considered by many to be the backbone of America, hard workers who help to stabilize this country.
While living in the role of the middle can be glorified at times, it can also be trampled on and for those in the middle it can be exhausting. We talk about the importance of the middle, but society often forgets about it. We coin terms like “middle child syndrome” and consider the middle class to be “blue collar”. How is the middle both important and forgotten, equally glorified and ridiculed?
Balance is preached but the opposite is often practiced. The middle can fill in the gaps for the extremes who find themselves divided. The middle can serve as a mediator for those who want to be heard and for those who are willing to listen. How does someone who gravitates toward the middle on most topics find their voice in this world? I consistently fall into this position but it is not always an easy place to reside. The “middle” voice can be drowned out by the megaphones on either side. The middle is silenced and then guilted for being quiet. It is the squeaky wheel who gets the grease but all the wheels have to roll in order to make any movement.
Finding a platform and using one’s voice can be overwhelming. For the person who looks around and finds themselves in the middle on issues, the intimidation of speaking up and trying to navigate this process can be enough to shut them down and cut them out of the conversation. Starting to use your voice can begin through listening. Active listening is the key to unlocking understanding. Building connections with people by seeking to understand them helps to create respect and empathy. When a person in the middle can see through two separate lenses, they can help those lenses see each other too.
Far too often I have witnessed people being blocked or attacked when they ask questions or state that they disagree. This behavior does not encourage continued communication, but instead it fuels a fire and continues to divide. Remembering that those who disagree are still human and focusing on their intentions as well as your own will help to create a sense of communication with respect for all.
This process has to start on an individual basis; it takes one person who is willing to reach out to another and ask questions. That question can start with “what can I do” or “how are you right now” and can then build into deeper dialogues. Everyone does not have to agree on all the issues, personally I find some comfort in my thoughts and opinions being challenged by others because it forces me out of my bubble and helps me to see a different perspective. Conversation does not have to maintain the intention of changing opinions but will be more satisfactory if people maintain an intention of understanding and mutual respect.
A world can exist that is diverse without division. When you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, remember to find your balance too. Consider your self-care as necessary. I am reminded of a conversation when someone stated that they felt guilty about taking a break and focusing on their self-care. Remember that no good can come from burnout. Take a moment and look for peace. I find mine in the awe of the quiet; in the nature that surrounds me. This weekend I was able to go into the woods, take a deep breath and feel at ease. I pondered the quote by John Muir, “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”. The forest was good for my soul. Use this moment, consider the middle, look for a bridge, take a deep breath and find your peace.