Working It Out

What I Fear Most

This looks like hopelessness to me - barren, craggy,  hard to get over or through.

This looks like hopelessness to me – barren, craggy, hard to get over or through.

To avoid feeling their pain, I’ve developed defense mechanisms. I can be very withdrawn and aloof as a way to avoid other people’s drama. I am great at problem-solving, so if people tell me their troubles, I have constructive suggestions. If people don’t know what to do, I’ve been way too free with advice. If none of these things works, I’ve been known to talk way too much, if that’s what it takes to prevent them from telling me more. For a while, I thought I was afraid of other people’s feelings, but in fact, I think I’m afraid of feeling helpless. I dislike feeling peoples’ desperation, concern, and frustration, knowing that I can do nothing.

Because in the end, only the person with a problem can fix it. In most personal situations, it is inappropriate to take over and fix someone’s problems. Boundaries 101 teach us that, as does the school of hard knocks. Healthy people deal with their own problems. They can ask for and receive help, but they must orchestrate or request their relief. Anything else can be disempowering and allows the troubled person to slip into victimhood, which can be a long slippery slope down to the dumps.

My idea of a good listener. He never shirks his duties and he's always available for me. (our dog, Jazz)

My idea of a good listener. He never shirks his duties and he’s always available for me. (our dog, Jazz)

This year, I’ve decided that it is my time to confront my fear.

I’ve decided to hear people’s problems and offer compassionate listening. And that’s it. No more advice, no matter how well-meaning. Compassion is a lot, mind you, but I need to stick with that. I have many tools in my toolbox, and if they ask specific questions and make specific requests, I can answer honestly and helpfully. They have to ask for it, though. I’m not going to let me fear continue to take over all my conversations. I am strong enough to feel another’s pain without having to fix it.

Wish me luck…. This isn’t the first big fear I’ve decided to confront, and it won’t be the last. It is the one that has become unbearable, now, though. What about you? Are you working to release something from your life?

Hopeless or empowered? I decide how I handle them - from fear or strength.

Hopeless or empowered? I decide how I handle them – from fear or strength.

15 replies »

  1. Good luck with your resolution. I know how hard it is to listen to problems and try not to say something to fix it.

    Since I am a teacher, I have also tried to differentiate which students need advice and which ones need listening ears.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is timely for me – thank you! I was succumbing to a ghastly blah of lassitude but today decided to stop trying to figure it all out and just live and breathe and go on, step by step. This post encourages me to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Something that I’ve learned over the years is that empathy is astoundingly transformational. It’s like alchemy. It may not seem like much (because the Overculture trains us to believe such things are not useful) but holding someone empathically and giving them the space to express their feelings is profoundly healing. I’m not talking about feeling someone else’s feelings (which I don’t actually believe is possible – one is always feeling through one’s own filters), but giving empathy (i.e. honoring and validating the other’s feelings… allowing them their fullness). I’ve come to believe that empathy is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It’s basically another word for love. At the end of the day, we don’t want to be fixed. We just want to be heard, seen, and held. That, more than anything, is what allows us to release our pain and stuckness and move forward. What a wonderful path you are heading down!

    Like

  4. I learned a long time ago that often help is not really help, it is control. What helps is offering someone the tools to help themselves. That empowers the right person. However, there are times when no matter how large the tool chest, you encounter people who cannot help themselves. They may be lacking in intellect or they may be too traumatized by events and/or life experience. Then, perhaps a little more “help” is in order….but in incremental steps so the moment the person is able to help themselves, you let go so they can. It is much like ministering to a crippled animal….The need for help begins large but decreases with the healing. The wisdom for the helper is to know when the needs change and have the wisdom to change accordingly. Sometimes helpers get so much of a power trip off of their helping, that they become more destructive than constructive.

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  5. I agree, it’s important to recognize whether a person just needs to talk and let difficult things out or whether they’re looking for input. I’ve always been good at determining what to say and when to say it as well as how much to offer. I see mountainous landscapes like the ones you have pictured here as inspirational, awe-inspiring, and fascinating contrasts to the life that grows beneath them; they hold secrets of the past within their depths. Interesting how we all see the same thing in so many different ways! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think the hard part is recognizing when people want help or advice or a listening ear. Others reach out to us in different ways. We need to listen with our eyes as well as our ears. Body language can tell us what we can’t hear. I know you must be very good at compassionate listening.
    I like all your pet pictures. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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