How to Be There for Others Without Breaking
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” -Andrew Boyd
Think Mother Teresa – she had this ability to sit down at the table with the world’s worst horrors and not be crushed by it. This view of MT is an ideal. We can find our own versions of compassion when we can be kind and loving without breaking.
The fact is that we feel. Our loving, heart-centered tribe – as reasonable and logical as we are – feel so connected that we take on the responsibility of the world. Often the measure of our worthiness emerges from how many emotional situations we can take on at once. Then we juggle and juggle, diminishing our own needs, till one day we find ourselves depleted.
This week with the #glowgetter tribe, we discovered a three-step process to be there for people without breaking:
Your bestie calls you crying. You’re knee deep in work responsibilities, but no matter – it’s your BFF. You stop what you’re doing to hear a summary of the situation.
You come to an impasse: you hear language like “should,” “abandon,” “lovable,” or “useless” and know that you’re dealing with your bestie’s interpretation. Not clear facts. (This doesn’t mean that the perception isn’t true. It means that it’s not provable.) There are many roles you can take, but you know one thing: you’re not going to get anywhere arguing with the story. So you give her a choice of roles you can take on…
(1): The listener. If she just wants to vent the story, then go for it. You both agree that you won’t try to fix or give advice, OR,
(2): The coach. If she really wants to take action, really see a shift happen, then something fundamental has to change in the facts, i.e. she must move, break up, break out, etc. This is challenging to decipher on the level of story drama.
This isn’t your story and you cannot fix the situation. Perhaps you would have taken different actions and you have tons of well-meaning suggestions to provide. It doesn’t matter how much great advice you give. If you try to tell someone what to do, they’ll either do it and blame you if it doesn’t go well, begin to rely on you instead of owning the situation, and/or resent you if they don’t take your advice.
Most likely they’ll give you heaps of excuses as to why your suggestions won’t work, which will leave you feeling frustrated.
Coaching is vastly different: we acknowledge that we can’t ever fix someone’s life for them. If fact, when we try, we enable all their stories that keep them feeling disempowered. While our intentions of helping are good, they rob others of learning the lessons they need to heal.
We can only help people see situations in a different way. When you and your friend can shift the story, she can get a different perspective to make her own decisions. This is a careful process that does NOT require hearing the story at length or commiserating.
If you’re not a coach or need help with this, then reach out. DO NOT, I repeat – DO NOT – become the dumping ground for anyone’s emotions. Know how to protect yourself.
If you’re not abundant and strong (meaning well-slept, well-fed, and well-nurtured), then this kind of sensitivity will deplete you. Refresh, revive and recognize that you’re not broken. Stay glowing.
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