A fix... any fix
When someone we care about is suffering or struggling, it's SO tempting to swoop in and apply a fix. Say something, do something, anything to stop the pain -- theirs, and the corresponding discomfort that their pain evokes in us.
It's uncomfortable to be around someone who is suffering precisely because it wakes up all that's untended to and unheld and suppressed within our own selves. We can't stand that, so we hurry to put a band aide over what-ever is hurting in the other person, to quiet things down again, so we can get back to pretending we're fine.
But any action we take or anything we say from that place communicates to the other person that what-ever ails them is something we can't or don't want to handle -- so we're handing it back to them to handle on their own. And then, on top of whatever difficult emotions they're experiencing, they feel unseen, unheard, and alone -- even more alone than they might be feeling if we weren't there, trying to offer them the benefit of our perspective or experience.
No need for fixing, and no strings attached
What if we stopped trying to fix other people who are hurting? What if, instead, we could find the courage to just sit with them in that terribly uncomfortable space? What if we communicated, with or without words, something along the lines of:
"Whatever ails you makes no difference to my regard for you."
"I see and feel your pain. I hear you. I get it."
"I can hold you AND your pain. And my regard for you is high enough that I am willing to do so with no strings attached."
"I won't belittle you by pretending to know the answer. I get that if there were an easy answer, you would already have applied it."
What if we could give a hurting person the gift of our unconditional acceptance and presence, without requiring that they pay for it by getting over their problem and feeling better so that we can feel better?
They don't need us to fix their problem. (If they did, if it was something like needing someone with a shifter instead of a hammer, or someone with stronger hands or someone taller, they would have just asked. "Hey, Friend, can you fix this for me?")
Tending to our own nervous system so that we can provide safety and holding for others
What a person who is in emotional pain and dis-regulation needs is for us to loan them, temporarily and without strings attached, our calm, regulated nervous system. So that their jumbled and fragmented system can tap into ours and put itself to rights.
But we can't provide that for them if our own nervous system goes to pieces at the sight of their pain. So offering a suffering person what they really need (instead of just trying to fix them) requires us to tend to our own inner needs -- preferably as a regular practice, but probably also on the fly when we find ourselves in this situation with another person.
Which can lead us to the realization that feeling that stab of urgency to fix someone's problem (when they're clearly emotionally upset or dis-regulated) is an opportunity.
It's an opportunity to turn inwards and make space within yourself. Make space for your own sense of urgency and discomfort so that what-ever is hurting within you can receive the same respectful, compassionate holding that you simultaneously give to your friend.
No fixing required, and no strings attached.
This post was inspired by Matt Licata's post, "Into a Vessel of Light"
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