When our loved ones suffer, it’s hard not to get swept up in their pain. We want so desperately to take away their pain and see them happy. We begin to get involved in their issues and try to find ways to resolve their problem. We easily rationalize to ourselves that we are kind and good people and want to help and be supportive.
However, being supportive does not mean we have to fix their problem. You can be supportive by merely listening without giving opinions or judging. Just be there and listen.
When the pain affects one of your loved ones an automatic immediate trigger is to jump in and rescue. What we are actually doing is relieving our own selves from anxiety. Because, once I jump in and help you, I no longer feel the anxiety. I believe that I am helping you; however, I am also helping myself.
For example, let’s say your 18-year-old is afraid to drive on the highway and has to be at an interview by 9:00 a.m. that she needs to take the highway to get to. You witness your child stressing out and being anxious. You want to relieve them of their pain. However, you are also concerned about their ability to get to their destination safely; and therefore; immediately react and offer to drive them. You are afraid that they may get hurt or get into an accident. You are relieving your own anxiety and not allowing them to find their own way and experience what they need to in order to overcome their fear. It is important to recognize your anxiety and learn to sit with it instead of acting on it. This is definitely easier said than done and requires practice.
When we carry someone else’s pain, we have now added more on to our plate. We not only have our own pain and anxiety, but theirs as well. We believe we are helping; however, we are not. When we care for others, we may have a tendency to take on their energy and emotional pain.
Even when we are not anxious ourselves, we may feel our heartbeat increase, our breathing become shallow, and our own anxiety begin to rise. It is important to stay grounded, set healthy boundaries, and be able to distinguish what is theirs and what is yours.
Recognize that you are only responsible for yourself. We cannot control other people and we cannot take away other people’s suffering. Unfortunately, they need to experience that for themselves. Find ways you can care for yourself so that you can be available as a support.
A good question to ask yourself is “Am I doing something for them that they can and should do for themselves?” If the answer is yes, redirect your focus and know that you are not helping in this situation, only enabling.
At The Hellenic Therapy Center, located at 567 Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed professionals available to assist you day and evening hours. Call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com, or Facebook.