I had a pivotal conversation with a client last week in which he shared his intentions for helping his kids process the thoughts and feelings they were having around their family’s shifting situation.
“I want to create a safe place for them,” he said. “I want them to know they can be themselves, no matter what that looks or feels like.”
This is a significant step for so many of us. The moment when we can realize it is not for us to “fix” or “improve” a situation for others, but instead that we have the opportunity to hold an open & secure space for those in our lives to “find” themselves within their current experiences and build awareness from the thoughts and emotions that come from these experiences.
It is equally important to be aware and allow this within ourselves.
This father, my client, like so many, has spent years trying to protect his family members from physical, emotional and mental hurt. Sometimes at the cost of having his own needs, voice and truth met. He has discovered, as heroic as it sounds, it is simply not possible to keep others safe from these things. No matter how much we love and do for others, we cannot fully protect them from mental, emotional and physical pain. We cannot, nor do we really want, to keep them from the lessons they came here to experience and learn.
How do we know this? Well, often when we focus all of our efforts on trying to do for them, it backfires, we lose our own selves, and we’re left wondering what in the world happened?
The truth is, we can only attend to what is within our own life experience. When it comes to others, the best we can provide them is a non-judgmental & unconditionally loving place to find their own way. Sometimes, we can do this alongside them. Other times, we may find we need to do this with space between us. Either way, holding a place of peace and compassion towards what they are going through is a choice that is always available to us.
What I have found, in my own life, is that the most truly loving act I can bestow on others is to wait and witness. To allow another to ask for the support I have to offer … not simply offer it without request or invitation.
I love what one of my dear and very wise friends, Toni Stevens, says about unsolicited feedback.
“No matter the intention of the one giving it, it can often be taken as criticism by the one receiving it.”
I realize this flies in the face of what our culture has traditionally taught us, but when we, too eagerly or quickly, rush in to make something “better” for someone, we are often enabling/disabling them. We can be keeping them from having an important lesson and learning how to do something for themselves. Not, in the least of which, is the ability to ask for support and not simply expect it.
The victim expects others to save him. The creator asks for support, knowing he is worthy of it.
Have you ever experienced a 2 year old’s response when an eager adult tries to step in and do something for the child that the child wants to do themselves? It’s usually some version of, “NO, I do MYSELF!”
We all want to stretch and grow our capabilities and capacity. It’s our right to be able to do this.
We’ve heard the saying, “live and let live.” For me, this outlines a very significant fact. We cannot take on someone else’s life as our own. It is not our path to walk, nor our choice of experience to have. We cannot take on another’s suffering, healing or even growth. All that belongs to them and the life they choose to live. You cannot digest what is not yours, no matter how strong your desire or level of trying.
We are currently in a time when a lot is changing. This level of shift causes discomfort and fear of the unknown. Defensiveness, projection and resistance can emerge. Boundaries and knowing what is good for each of us is vital. Being able to communicate this is additionally necessary.
It reminds me of what social researcher, Brené Brown, found when studying the concept of
boundaries. She discovered that people who are best at setting and holding firm boundaries in their lives are also the ones who display the most compassion, understanding and patience when dealing with others. Why? Simply put, because they don’t take on others’ stuff. They are free to stand in their own lane and provide appropriate support and space for people to work through their own experiences.
So, what would it look like if we all were to improve our reactions to change, as well as our expectations around what constitutes support? What might we ask for? What might we start or stop doing?
How can we become more curious and fascinated as we witness how others choose to live their lives? How can we become more curious and fascinated about how we are choosing to live our own?
Whatever your answers to these questions might be, they offer a great place to begin practicing the grace of allowance and receiving the gifts that come from it.
Wishing you all a wonderful, abundant Thanksgiving!