Hi Ben,

Some people are so empathic that they can see someone else's pain written in their eyes and in their gestures. My sister is like that. It's like they see right into your soul.

My guess is that you worried that she saw something so painful in you that it made you feel pathetic in some way.

Pity is a really hard thing for guys like us to deal with. We feel so weak inside, and we so often over compensate and pretend everything is OK when, especially if we're just starting to deal with the abuse, everything is actually totally horrible.

The pity challenges us and hits the biggest buttons of all. It's like you've been accused of being abused when you're still too sensitive about it to even admit publicly that the abuse was real.

That's when it becomes so important to recognize that on some fundamental level we're all OK. The abuse is like breaking a bone. It's bad, but it doesn't make us bad. It doesn't make us weak.

Then we need to be able to say it's OK to be vulnerable. Everyone is vulnerable. The more easily we admit to ourselves that we're vulnerable, the stronger we actually become. Our vulnerableness stems from fear that we'll be abused again or that we're wrong in some way. When in fact, we're really OK deep down. Safe and secure in our having survived.

Once we see these things clearly, we can see the pity in someone's eyes as simple compassionate concern for another human being's misfortune and also as a taking that misfortune and internalizing it themselves. Sensitive people like that feel other people's pain.

What she probably needed to hear from you was something like: You're right. I've been through a lot. But you know what? I'm pretty strong, too. I can handle it.

If you still love the girl, give her a call. Take her out. Look into her eyes and ask yourself what she's seeing. It might just be that she's really seeing you, and maybe she likes what she sees even though there's some pain in your life that she also knows.

It's a funny thing; we suffer a lot because of the abuse, but when we come out the other side, we can be some of the kindest most decent people you'd ever know. We're totally worthy, and we're really, really strong.

Best wishes,