How to Take Care and Not Care Take
It was a Monday night and as I walked into my house my phone rang. My best friend was on the other end crying. She had just experienced a painful breakup, and almost instinctually I told her I was on my way. My intention was to support her through this painful process, but on my way to her house I wondered, is there a right way to support someone in need?
With so much going on in people’s lives and in the state of our world, it can feel overwhelming to show up and support those who need it sometimes. How many times have you seen someone crying and wanted to wipe away their tears? How many times as a parent, friend, sibling, or significant other have you wanted to soothe the pain of the person you love? These things seem like the right thing to do in times of crisis, but sometimes it’s not. Here are some ways I’ve picked up along my journey that have helped me to support someone.
Listen Without Fixing
When I arrived at my friend's house, I made her some tea and listened to her. As the tears were flowing, I fought my impulses to wipe them away and to tell her that everything was going to be okay. Here is my hardest thing — knowing when to not speak and not interject my own thoughts. I let her go through her own inner dialogue and process all the emotion that went along with it, only chiming in when she asked me to, regardless of if I saw a problem I thought I could fix. Problem fixing, as tempting as it may seem, rarely works. People need to land in their own truth on their own or it isn’t sustainable. When they are ready to hear what you have to say, they'll ask, and it would stick way more and be received if you have their consent to say it.
Focus on Solutions
After being in the shit and feeling all of the emotions, it’s time to think of some possible solutions. Think small, attainable baby steps to build a ladder out of where they are. The point isn’t to stop feeling what needs to be felt, but to nourish yourself out of it. Think of filling yourself up so much that everything that doesn’t need to be there flows away. Maybe if they are in a cyclical hamster wheel thought pattern, suggesting things they could do instead to get themselves out — like journaling, cooking, saying a prayer or mantra, or getting creative.
Show Yourself Love
An important part of being a good support system is to not only let them go through their process, but to honor our own and the feelings it brings up in us. Part of taking care instead of care taking is to make sure we are nourishing ourselves as well. When we are trying to control or fix someone and their situation, we will often be left feeling drained and depleted. When we take time for ourselves and go about supporting with a clear and open mind, however, we are able to not only be stable in ourselves but lend a more helpful hand. It is through our own strength and staying in it that others can find their strength.
Give Freely and From Abundance
It is important to trust the process the person is going through and have faith that they can get themselves out of it. How we react to their pain is a reflection of where we are at as well, and can be a good indication of if we are giving from our hearts or if we’re giving because we feel that we have to. When we are care taking we usually are doing so out of a feeling of obligation versus given freely from abundance.
The next time you are being called to support someone, I invite you to really think about how you can be the most supportive and honor them. I invite you to nourish and take care of yourself throughout the whole process, and see the difference it can make in the situation at hand and the relationship itself. I am happy to report my friend is happy, healthy, thriving, and completely supported.