I’m so pleased and honored to have been featured on Barbara Franken’s Me, My Magnificent Self.
Every other Monday throughout this year, Barbara hosts a Guest Blogger/Author Feature showcasing their thoughts and perspective on COMPASSION. She will put together all submissions in a FREE E-Book which will be available at the end of the year. If you’re interested in participating, there are still a few slots available. You may click on this link to find out how to participate.
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Rescuing tendency. It is deeply ingrained in my system. It was the pattern behind my motivation to ‘help’ and ‘be of service.’
There was so much drama in my life — others’ and my own, beginning with my family of origin. I ‘thrived’ in them. In the dramas.
I, subconsciously, sought it out. I attracted the ‘lost souls.’ The ‘poor me’s’ and their endless victim stories. The more dramatic and tragic the narratives, the more compelled I was to help. To come to their rescue.
Thankfully, I’ve now become so much more aware of this dysfunctional pattern. I have begun to address it. I’ve started creating a new, empowered pattern in response to such situations.
Nowadays, I am repulsed by dramas. They’ve lost their appeal.
I have lost interest in listening to someone pour their hearts out to me — especially if all they want is to vent without any intention of moving out of victim mode. If they want to stay stuck in their agony, then I just have to let them be.
Victims feed off the drama; they are compelled to feed the drama.
I don’t. Not anymore.
These days, I can only patiently and compassionately listen for a few minutes. Having lost the compulsive desire to pull them out of such a situation, all I want is to quickly get away from such energies.
And the loss of interest isn’t because I don’t care.
Oh, I do.
I do care for the well-being of others. I want to see them unburdened. I still have the desire to alleviate the suffering.
But if I don’t act on that desire, does that mean that I don’t have any compassion for them? If I don’t help or do anything proactively to relieve the other of their suffering, does that make me indifferent, cold, and uncaring?
I just know now that there are times that people need to go through painful situations because it is part of their growth process and evolution. They have something to learn from it. There are qualities that they need to develop. Skills to master. And the only way for that to happen is for them to go through what they’re going through — including the difficult ones and no matter how painful.
And with that awareness, I’m mindful now that I do not instinctually ‘help’ or immediately do something to get them out of their miserable state.
I’m not talking about situations when someone had an accident, is drowning or in similar cases requiring immediate action and response. I’m talking about non-emergency situations.
Without a doubt, my desire for the suffering individual to be alleviated of their agony is there.
But I’ve realized that I need not be the one tasked to relieve them of the pain. It isn’t my responsibility — as a rescuer is wont to believe.
I’ve learned to allow them to know for themselves what the most rightful choice is for them. For them to tap into their inner reserves. To develop self-reliance rather than co-dependency.
When asked, I will offer my suggestions. But only when asked. It isn’t for me to decide and determine how they must live their lives.
There’s also such a thing as timing and readiness.
When these individuals are ready, they will get out of their suffering — without my intervention and participation. When it is time, they will rise above their adversity. And I am in no position to decide when that time, timing, and pacing is for them.
In the end, they will come out wiser.
The most empowering and most sensible choice that I must do is to sit back and watch them make their choices. I may not necessarily agree with their decisions. Some of their choices may turn out to be unwise and lead to even more suffering.
But I just need to trust and know that whatever those choices are, they are opportunities for the individual to grow and become better versions of themselves. At the end of the day, it is for their highest good and for the highest good of all concerned.
Am I doing it for them or for me?
When I hadn’t quite figured out how to deal with someone in pain, I found it difficult to just be with the person. To just hold the space for what they’re going through. I was too controlling, too quick to want to jump and fix the situation.
I felt uneasy witnessing the other person’s pain. I felt helpless. I wanted them to be cheerful once again. To rise above their agony and move on. And move on right away.
I thought I wasn’t helping when I wasn’t doing or saying anything. I thoughtlessly and automatically gave my unsolicited advice. I thought and believed it is what would give comfort.
I had realized that what I truly wanted to overcome was my own discomfort in seeing the other person suffering.
My motivation to help wasn’t coming from a genuine desire to alleviate the other from their suffering. What I wanted to remove was my discomfort in seeing someone else’s pain.
I wasn’t doing it for them. I was doing it for me.
More pain to the already troubled and agonizing individual.
I’ve done this to others; other people have done it to me as well.
Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that when we’re at a loss for what to say or do, we can simply say, “I’m sorry for your loss/what you’re going through, and I’m so sorry you’re hurting. How can I help?”
For someone who is suffering, no words can best describe the pain. No words can surpass the depth of the agony. Nothing seems to come close.
Often, the suffering individual feels like all the world’s burdens are upon them. At times, no amount of reassurance can help lighten the load.
What the individual needs is our Presence.
Our Presence tells them I am holding the space for you. Our silence says I am honoring your process.
And often, our Presence, our Silence can have a deeper impact more than any other words of comfort. Often, that’s what a suffering individual needs. Our Compassionate Silence and Presence.
And here comes feigned positivity…
There is one misleading teaching in many spirituality/new age circles which has propelled even more this common tendency to want to rescue — the need and emphasis to just ‘think or be positive’ all the time.
There is the false belief that being in states of sadness and suffering, experiencing difficulties, and going through periods of darkness are unhealthy or bad. There’s something ‘wrong’ with the person or their life.
But there isn’t anything necessarily ‘wrong’ with misfortunes. I’m not saying, though, that they are to be desired — that we must aspire for them. However, they do come with the territory called ‘Life.’ With our earthly human experience.
There are seasons and cycles in life — as Nature has been teaching us. Our lives are made up of pleasant and bitter times. Moments of distress as well as joyousness. We need both yin and yang to be in balance.
And the more we can embrace the need for the balance of the Yin and Yang in our lives, the Positive and the Negative, the Light and the Dark, the more we can relax, be at ease, allow, and welcome the pain and suffering — others and our own. We stop playing the Rescuer and Enabler.
Instead, we become a Compassionate Listener and Observer, offering the most empowering and comforting gift to those who are in the midst of confusion and suffering — our Compassionate Presence.
(This post first appeared here on Me, My Magnificent Self.)
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