When people we love are experiencing pain, the temptation is to charge into their suffering with certainty and answers.
But that approach only services to distance people from us, leaving them even more isolated. What’s worse, when advice is imposed instead of sought, we deprive people of a chance to feel fully human.
More often than not, just being there is best we can do.
Not as a cure, but as a companion. Not as a fix, but as a friend.
Here’s a practice I find to be helpful. Next time you’re talking on the phone or spending time with someone who’s experiencing pain, don’t ask them how they’re doing. Or how they’re holding up. Or anything along those lines.
Because odds are, the answer is, they’re doing horribly. They feel like shit. And that feeling isn’t going away anytime soon.
Just say and do and be things that remind them who they are. Hold up a mirror that connects them to pieces of themselves that they aren’t even paying attention to. Give people the dignity of self definition, standing at the edge of yourself and saluting them without the desire to change, fix or improve them, and without the fear that they are going to change you either.
Just be there, in the safe container of your caring. They’ll know.
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Are you approaching people as a companion, or as a cure?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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