The Wish To Solve Other People’s Problems
How many of us need self-compassion for the wish to solve other people’s problems? I would wager a lot of us. High up on our list of hardships is watching someone suffer, and feeling unable to help them. That is why those infomercials work so well. For just fifteen cents a day, you can give little Jimmy the food and water he needs to get through a whole day. You cannot get to your piggy bank fast enough. I think some people’s hearts are so big they could crush that piggy bank with their mind! We see this suffering, and we give.
Support Is A Virtue
It is certainly a virtue to give financial or emotional support, when you can. But, the key word there is support. In life, we are all on our own personal journey, seeking the knowledge, skill, and experiences we need to develop a safe, meaningful, and inspired self. We can benefit from the support of others on our journey, but if they fix our problems, then our current conditions will change, but our problems will remain. A wise teacher once said, “If someone else’s problems were your problems, they would be called something else.”
Learning To Compassionately Rather Than Empathically Attend To Other’s Problems
And, even though we possess this wisdom, we still feel pulled to solve other people’s problems, especially when they are suffering in an extraordinary way or in a way that we feel capable of remedying. However, if you carry the worries of others as your own, you will eventually fall prey to compassion fatigue. You will become resentful, and tired. Your health will suffer, and your heart will hang heavy. One of my favorite mentors, Dr. Inna Khazan, says there is a fine distinction between “Empathic listening and Compassionate Listening. Empathic listening requires you to experience all the pain and suffering of someone else, and become worn by your experience. Compassionate listening simply requires you to listen with the wish that others be free of suffering, and that they find the tools they need to return to a state of well-being.” I find this explanation simple and beautiful.
Your Self-Compassion Practice For Wanting To Solve Other People’s Problems.
So, here is your self-compassion practice for wanting to solve other people’s problems. Notice this impulse. Name it. Track down where this feeling lives in your body, and soften around it. Remember that your job is to wish for this person’s ability to endure and transcend suffering. Listen with your heart, and wish this for them. Then, take the time to be really kind to yourself for making this shift (from empathy to compassion). Believe it or not this will be a gift for the person in question. They will feel like they are not burdening you with their issues. They will feel empowered by your belief in them. And, they will learn vicariously the benefit of supporting rather than taking on another’s stress. Follow this practice to the best of your ability, and be kind to yourself, when you fall back into your old habits. After all, that is just another opportunity for self-compassion.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 232. In The Books.