Tuesday, March 14, 2017
How can I help?
How can I help?
We have all encountered situations where a friend or a loved one was in a bit of a crisis. How did you react in that moment? Did you feel the tension well up inside of your body? Did you get uncomfortable? Were you eager to escape this uncomfortable moment?
We may react to one of our friends voicing out their problems to us by giving our sympathies or even offering some type of advice. Sometimes the advice seems warranted and sometimes it does not. We may think we are helping by expressing our sympathies and giving advice, but are we really helping?
We may think that giving advice is helping, but sometimes we use it as at instant gratification exit strategy to immediately find solutions to ease the tense moment. We may not know what is best for them or even what is best for us in times of great stress. This is imperative to observe. We can only give advice from our own limited and biased perspective based upon our own past experiences and selective knowledge we have picked up along the way. Giving advice isn’t necessarily destructive, but sometimes it may divert away from the root problem your friend or loved one is having. What happens when get away from a more agenda driven conflict resolution type of mindset and aim towards a non-judgmental sense of awareness based on listening and compassion? It may be uncomfortable at first, but if we can learn a lot from humility and not jumping towards immediate answers.
Some of us may be unconscious of the “stock words and reactions” we use when trying to respond towards a person in crisis. We may perk up our sympathy ears and say things that we “think” we should say in the moment.
“ I’m am so sorry “
“ Wow, that isn’t good.”
“ I feel you.”
“ Things will get better.”
“ I’ve been there before.”
( And other precarious platitudes. )
This is your conditioning.
We want to appear sympathetic and make the other person feel like we are listening no matter how manufactured or uncomfortable it may make us. We all have problems that we need to talk about in order to fully understand where they are coming from. This is essential for human bonding and cultivating valuable and long lasting relationships. With that in mind, we can learn to interact more effectively when we understand the relationship we have with ourselves.
Sometimes we may feel obligated to try to manipulate our friend’s tense situation in order to make him or her feel better about themselves. We may unconsciously try to tell them to manipulate the state they are in and move them into a more relaxed and positive oriented disposition. The intention in this seems pretty harmless, but could still be seen as a type of exit strategy from discomfort. When we tell a friend to simply “ relax” or “ cheer up”, we are ignoring what they are really saying. We aren’t necessarily listening or being very attentive. This is more key in trying to understand the way we feel and operate than the way others too. When we are able to expand self knowledge and self ownership, we can start to see that the way we treat the people around us is a reflection the way we treat ourselves. You may catch yourself telling yourself to relax or to calm down in times of high anxiety and stress. You may catch yourself trying to divert your thought pattern to sometime more positive without really understanding where those thoughts are coming from. When we try to manipulate our behaviors as a form of escape, we are not allowing ourselves the totality of such passing experiences. When we can simply be with what is happening within us without trying to resist it, we can see it for what it is and let it make its course through us and pass. It will pass.
You have no obligation to try to change people's moods and behaviors.
So when we are aware with how we try to manipulate our moods and listen to what is going on within us, we can start to project that with the people we encounter. We can accept ourselves as well as accepting our distressed love ones without immediately trying to jump to conclusions and solutions. We can switch from seeking solutions to understanding the roots of suffering.
But how is this constructive?
You can say that you understand and you can sympathize and empathize all you want. In a way this is good. The ability to be able to sit with someone in pain without being dismissive, negative or anxious allows for more fruitful and loving relationships. This brings to light what we can do action wise. We can offer ourselves in service. We can give what we can within that moment and attentively listen to the people in turmoil. Sometimes listening may be the best thing to do. Being present is the best strategy in every tense situation. From that presence arises a call to action towards compassion and vulnerability. We can refrain from saying things unless they need to be said. We can refrain from trying to move on from the discomfort. We can truly utilize the moment to connect with someone else and ourselves and learn from the suffering.
We can keep asking questions? Digging deeper to the root cause of the suffering. Not fishing for immediate solutions.
We can ask, “ How can I help? “
By asking this question, we are offering ourselves to service of another person. They may or may not know what they want. This is all fine. So many tense interactions center around conflict resolution and the omission of tension, that we forget that we can offer anything valuable in return. We can all offer something no matter how small. Sometimes listening is just enough. Sometimes asking this question is just enough. It’s certainly not about trying to fulfill and altruistic goal or means to an end.
Asking “How can I help?” is in a sense a type of discovery.
A stroll through uncertainty.
A lengthy jog through value and virtue.
A swim through vulnerability and compassion.
From the discomfort comes great growth.
How will you be present with someone in need?
With someone in distress?
With yourself in distress?
With yourself and the world?