Emergency!! My friend is very depressed, suicidal even, using a lot of alcohol. I need to help her! Another friend is suffering from a terminal illness. I need to help him! My child is very upset. I need to help her!
Many of us look at other humans who are expressing sadness, confusion or anger with the speedy response that we need to help that person, ASAP. We need to fix things for them, support them, DO SOMETHING.
Agony if we can’t help. Anxiety. Even frustration. Perhaps the thought that WE are doing something wrong if the person doesn’t change or become happier.
Parents have this “problem” quite often. I am the custodian of this small person in the world. This child is suffering (I can see by their tears or their anger) and I MUST act quickly to help them STOP crying or being angry.
There are so many beliefs happening in that moment that are conflicted, opposing and stressful.
This morning I facilitated a woman who was doing the Work on her ten year old, who was having a melt-down. She was very distraught about that moment, so we looked at everything that was going on right in that very situation when her son was so upset.
Here were the thoughts zooming through her mind:
- I don’t know what to do
- I need to do something good
- I must not be a good parent since I can’t think of anything
- This crying really upsets ME
- We will be late (other people will get upset)
- My child will have a difficult future unless I offer some kind of good solution
- I need to meet his needs
- I’m not good enough
- I can’t handle this
- People will think I’m a bad mother
I could hear the pain and suffering coming out of this situation, this incredibly difficult moment. This mother adored her son, and she believed she was supposed to know what to do to help him.
Many of us are terribly uncomfortable with other people suffering. We naturally want to help. If someone in this world gets too upset or depressed, they could kill themselves, kill someone else, start a war, have a miserable life.
When someone is really, really close to us, like parent-child relationships, then many parents actually feel responsible for the suffering they see in their children. As a parent, I’m believing I need to provide my child with skills, hope, happiness, love…all they need to have a good feeling on the inside and therefore a good life. If I were a really excellent parent, my child wouldn’t suffer!
This is a huge, tall, immense and impossible order. Not only should I know what to do if my kid is in pain, but I should have pre-emptively known what to do or say before now, so that they wouldn’t be in this situation where they are presently suffering.
Some parents, in order to counteract that sense of not knowing what to do (when they believe they SHOULD know) get more know-it-all and give lectures or say “here’s what you need to do…” and make a speech. Too frightening to admit that here in this moment of pain being expressed, they can’t really fix it.
Seeing what you actually are thinking in these moments of great stress, in the presence of someone else (like your child) feeling unhappy, and then questioning if what you think is really, really true is a wonderful first step to unhooking the agony created with wanting to rescue someone from pain.
Is it true that I need to do something? Is it true that I need to KNOW what to do or say? Is it true that if I don’t help, fix, calm down, soothe or enlighten this person that they will be lost now, and in the future?
If I couldn’t think the thought I have to help my kid, with a panicked, nervous, or intense feeling on the inside, what do I notice? How would I be with my child?
What if I could relax….even just a little….and let this child have his or her experience? Leave it the way it is. Don’t rush to offer a solution, or get upset with myself for not having one.
What if I didn’t yell at myself internally that I’m not a good enough parent, and that this child NEEDS me. What if no one in the world really needs me? Even my clients who come to me for counseling?
“Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease. First realize that you are sick; then you can move toward health. The Master is her own physician. She has healed herself of all knowing. Thus she is truly whole.”~Tao te Ching #71
If we really feel and discover this place where we are our own physician, we need nothing in this moment right in the presence of someone else who is hurting. We simply are present, knowing nothing, watching, being, trusting.
Who would I be without the thought that my child needs help, my client needs help, the world needs my help…that I should do something?
Waiting. Silent. Ready for whatever happens. Joyful at a deep level….Helpful.