When Helping Isn't Helpful
Today, I was very critical of a loved one. I pointed out a speech habit that I thought made my boyfriend sound less intelligent than he is. What’s worse, I expressed my criticism at a time when he was very vulnerable, having just come out of a situation that put him out of his comfort zone. I know, I know, I’m a horrible person. And I feel horrible about it. Because I was horrible and I felt guilty for it afterward, I wanted to know what had propelled me to be critical. Why did I feel the strong urge to point it out at the absolute worst time possible? What good could have come out of that?
I took myself to a quiet place to ask, “What was that about?” My first thought was that I was trying to help him. I saw that there was a breakdown of who he was and what was being presented. I think those close to us, who know us best can see when there is a discord between our inner self and what we are putting out into the world. We can see hurt, pain and doubt get in our way of showing our best selves. We can’t do that for ourselves because we are just too immersed in those survival feelings. When we see our loved ones getting stuck in these feelings it can feel frustrating, and therefore we have the desire to help. That seems altruistic, right?
I wanted to dig deeper and ask why I felt such a need to help him. Why was this a problem for me? Why did I care so much that I was compelled to say something? I closed my eyes and asked, allowing any feelings or thoughts to arise. That is when I had a hard realization. The feeling that came up was embarrassment. I cared so much because I felt embarrassed. In reality, my conscious mind, he does not embarrass me at all. I find him quite wonderful, after all I chose him for my mate. He is smart, kind, and funny and I am proud of who he is, so why did the feeling of embarrassment come up? After all, the situation had nothing to do with me. And if I truly wanted to help, whom was I really trying to help?
The honest truth was that I was trying to help myself. I was wrapping my worth up in the person he was presenting to the world. I was holding the subconscious belief of him as a reflection of my worth. I was hit by the selfishness and the sadness of my actions. I thought about other situations where I had felt this way with the people closest to me, hinging my worth on their choices under the guise of wanting to help them and make them better people. What a futile effort it is to try to control the choices of others to make yourself feel more secure. And how much power and responsibility I was placing on my loved ones.
There is a fine line between wanting to help people and wanting to fix them, and the line often gets blurred because of our own ego. This was an example in my own personal life, and it caused me to ask the question, as a healer, what are my intentions? How many healers love the power of ‘fixing’ their patients? The intention is to help people, but is it for our own gratification, to make ourselves feel more powerful, more worthy? In truth, the patients heal themselves or at least cooperate in their healing, we are just conduits of information and energy. It’s always up to the other person to take the advice, the prescription or the action. In this situation, because it was a loved one, my motivations were clouded. He isn’t a client, but I am invested in his life, and want the best for him and from him. I was so tied to a particular outcome and I didn’t want him to experience any fear or discouragement, ironically, I only added to that.
I decided to invoke a practice recommended my by teacher, Bree Melanson, and ask, “What does my soul want me to learn from this?” The answer was clear and immediate. I was to care for my own worth as a divine being and honor him as a separate divine being. I was not responsible for his journey and the lessons that he needed to learn, and I could not ask him or others to carry the task of upholding and defining my self worth. Sound familiar? Namaste: the divine spirit in me honors the divine spirit in you. We say it all the time in yoga class, but there is a deeper lesson. Actually living the spiritual guidance put forth as a practice in our lives can heal and refocus our intentions, and bring us back to the pure seat of our soul.
I can see how my urge to be critical was really a reflection of my desire for both he and I to “be conflict-free and disappointment-free” as Toni Bernard says in her article You Can’t Fix Everything in Psychology Today (read it here). I was trying to avoid unhappiness for both of us, which is unrealistic. In trying to fix the situation, I made him feel broken, which he is not. He is human, as am I, and we two perfectly imperfect people will continue to learn and grow, and heal ourselves as best we can.