How Can We Truly Help Another?
This is a lesson that is coming up for me right now. I have encountered a variety of situations, both personally and professionally that has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on what it means to offer support for another. Here is what I feel has helped me provide space and assistance for another.
- Accept someone as they are (without judgement): When we feel seen and accepted for who we are with all of our flaws and vulnerabilities, it provides a safe space to let down our guard and be with our challenges in an empowering way.
- Release expectations: As we begin to develop our ability to be self-aware, we can start to notice that we may have “expectations” for others, especially those that we care for deeply. In order to truly accept someone for who they are, it is imperative to release any expectations for who you want them to be. It is also essential to release expectations of how things should be. It is the resistance of our current situations that is the cause of our suffering. We must accept people and situations for who and what they are. This doesn’t mean we have to like it or that it is permanent but to fight reality is futile. It is with full acceptance of another and another’s circumstance that we can begin to help the other take steps to heal.
- Holding space: Someone who is seeking help is really seeking a safe place to allow themselves to be heard. It is natural to want to give advice and try to fix the problem (this is my pattern) but witnessing someone’s experience and allowing them to be with their discomfort in a safe way is healing in itself. It is providing the space for someone to access their own wisdom and build trust in their own abilities and not rely on the advice of another. It is an opportunity to practice mindful listening. This is when we listen with the intention of simply listening and witnessing- without an agenda of “fixing” or offering advice. In order to hold space and be with another’s discomfort without wanting to do something about it, we have to know how to be with our own discomfort. Which leads me to my next point..
- Taking care of our own baggage: This is the crux of my work. Everything we “see” is experienced through our own lens or “perception.” If we are triggered by another or a situation, our work is to go inward and with curiosity and compassion, allow ourselves to be with our discomfort. We may begin to understand that the “trigger” has nothing to do with the current situation. This trigger is a past, unhealed wound that is surfacing to be witnessed, felt and healed with compassion. As we heal our wounds, we will no longer project them onto another. When we have cleaned up our inner landscape, we can see another clearly without our lens being shaded by our own emotional reactivity. We cannot help another when we are blinded by our reactivity. This I know for sure. We need to recognize when we are reactive and take care of own emotions before we can help another “see” clearly. There is a distinct line between true empathy and enmeshment. We can empathize with another when we feel alongside with them. Enmeshment occurs when we cannot separate ourselves from the other- this happens because we have not taken care of our own baggage and we cannot see past our own pain and emotional reactivity. Enmeshment is not helpful for either party.
- See through the lens of compassion: Research shows that the mind tends to gravitate to negativity as high as 70% of the time. It is a training to recognize when we are in “lack-based” thinking and shift into an abundant mindset. As we begin to build self-awareness, we can recognize when we are seeing someone through the lens of judgement, blame, anger, resentment. People who are hurt, hurt others. To see through the eyes of compassion is to be able to truly help another. Blaming, shaming and judging another is where we give our power away. When we recognize that someone’s hurtful behavior is coming from pain on the inside, we can start to cultivate compassion and access our inner wisdom.
- Mirror Wholeness: When someone is suffering and seeking help, mirroring to them their wholeness is the greatest gift we can offer. When we suffer, we have forgotten our truth. We are severed from our divinity. It takes another person who is connected to their own truth to see the truth in the other who has forgotten it. When we remind another of their sense of wholeness, we empower them and aid in their healing.
- Realize that at the end of the day, we are responsible for ourselves and ourselves only: This one can be a tough pill to swallow. Naturally, we want the best for others. At times, we may recognize how someone is causing their own suffering. We are all on our own journey. We cannot do the work for someone else. However, what we can do is not contribute to their suffering. We can hold space for their healing and remind them of their truth. We must trust in the process and timing of it all.