There is a common trend amongst many people in our society that when someone feels down or off in some way, we try to make them feel better. Sometimes we can even try to take on that person’s problems and solve it for them. The biggest challenge that surfaces from this type of interaction is that it creates a dependency issue for the person with the problem(s). If someone is always there to make you feel better or fix your issues, you will begin to rely on it. This dis-empowering behavior prevents both parties from becoming truly self-sufficient and independent.
A couple of weeks ago I was in L.A. visiting a special girl named Jill that I recently started dating, and on the eve of my birthday I had a very profound experience that allowed me to break free from this behavior in my own life.
We had just finished having a fantastic dinner with friends and we were on our way to a karaoke bar, so I could continue to face down my fear of singing in front of people. As we left the restaurant I was feeling great, but as we got closer to the bar I felt a huge wave of resistance surface. Out of nowhere I became tired, indecisive, cranky and was very much stuck in my head. As we walked into the bar I felt my whole body clench with fear. I didn’t stay inside longer than a minute before I had to retreat outside for some air. I was noticeably upset, even though I was trying my best to hide it.
In past relationships, whenever I felt like this, the person I was with would always try to figure out what was wrong with me, how they could cheer me up or even how they could solve my problem. I even experienced this sequence of behavior with my mother for most of my childhood. So it is safe to say that I had an unconscious habit of interacting this way that still found a way to surface every so often in certain situations.
But this time around something completely different happened. Instead of getting all caught up in my drama, Jill just held the space for me to work my way through it on my own. She didn’t try to get involved with my inner dialogue, she didn’t provide options or possible solutions, and she didn’t take me by my hand and drag me back into the bar. On some level I wanted her to just fix it for me, but she refused. What she did do was provide unconditional support in whatever I decided to do and disengaged from my drama completely, giving me space to work through it. Even though this agitated me–because I was clearing through the remains of that old pattern – I still felt empowered and safe.
As a result, after about 20 – 30 minutes I ultimately decided to go back into the bar, get up on that stage and belt out a tune from the depth of my soul.
It was another empowering experience of overcoming my fear of singing in front of people, but none of it would have even been possible if Jill had engaged in my drama. In fact seeing her not engage in it was actually one of the most empowering things I have experienced. It inspired me to take a hard look at myself, get my act together and move past the old pattern that had been holding me back from experiencing any sort of sustainable intimate relationship with a woman.
I realized that every time I got others to help solve my problems, I was giving them my power. Now I am not saying stop asking others for help. But what I am saying is that there comes a time in the process that we need to value our own inner voice more than the opinions of others. Otherwise, we will never truly experience the coveted freedom and independence that we all truly long for.
When it comes to helping other people, Jill showed me how powerful holding space for someone can truly be. This form of non-confrontational support gives another individual the power to feel their way through the so called storm without depending on any external sources. Holding space is not about giving someone a flash light so they can see their darkness more clearly or showing someone an easier path to take. It is about beaming your own light so bright that the other person feels safe enough to find their own way through whatever they are experiencing.
Although it is a natural tendency for many of us to engage in other people’s stories and drama, I believe this behavior holds us back from truly experiencing ALL that life has to offer. After all, we all have enough to deal with in our OWN lives; we don’t need to burden ourselves with other people’s drama, too!
Take Action Challenge:
Do you try to solve or fix other people’s problems for them? Are you engaging in their drama? It’s time to disengage! Every day for the next week take a hard look at your relationships, and take a step back from playing an active role in other people’s problems. If / when you are asked specifically how to solve their problems, mirror the same questions they ask you back to them, while providing unconditional support, encouragement and love so they can figure it out for themselves!
If / when you notice the inner “rescuer” surfacing, remember; stay in your own truth and shine your own light even brighter, while letting go of the desire to solve the problem for them. The best help you can provide is to EMPOWER them so they can find their own way!
Give it a try and let me know how it goes
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Michael Eisen is the founder of the Youth Wellness Network, an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth across the globe to live happier and more positive lives. Michael is teaching his first online program this summer called Living the Empowered YOU. To learn more about Michael and the Youth Wellness Network, visit: www.youthwellnessnetwork.ca, connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter: @youthwellnet