when being there for someone feels draining (it's not what we think)
*First published via email on Friday, March 8, 2019. Click here to subscribe.
This morning's happenings:
Me: "Shoot, I forgot to tell my mom I'm gone all day and we won't be home for dinner."
Melo: "That's ok."
Me: "I hope she's feeling better."
Melo: "Oh yea, she's been sick."
Me: "I feel like she's always taking care of me, but I don't take care of her. I haven't done anything except ask her a bunch of questions...'"
Me: "'Mom, are you ok? You're ok right?'...'Mom, do you need fo- you don't need me to make you food, right?'...'Mom, do you need anything?' Like that. But she keeps saying she's fine. I'm a terrible daughter."
And then last night, during a client call, "Mr. Z" and I talked about how drained we feel sometimes when we need to take care of the people we love. (Not that asking my Mom a bunch of questions has been draining! Ok, that was a weak segue...segway? LOL. But I promise it all connects!)
So Mr. Z's father passed away recently and his mom is still grieving. Mr. Z feels her pain and he wants to be there for her, but he's also learning to set his boundaries so that he doesn't feel drained every time he goes over to see her. It doesn't help that he also feels that all the responsibility is falling on his shoulders since his two sisters don't seem to be doing as much as he is.
If you have or are going through something similar, I have a suggestion for you.
We, as empaths, feel other people's energies very strongly. When they are not feeling well, we don't feel well. And because of our own discomfort we laser focus onto "helping them feel better"...so we can feel better (let's just call it what it is - it's NOT selfish! This is NORMAL for human beings...otherwise, we would never try to help each other.)
So we do everything in our power to "help them." We rack our brains for solutions and tell them to try this and do that and call this person and journal that.
And THEY NEVER LISTEN. Or they say ok but then never follow through. Arg. So then we ask them a bunch of questions why and try to problem solve other solutions. BUT THEY STILL DON'T LISTEN. 😤
This is because, most of the time, they don't want our damn solutions. They want something entirely different.
Think about the last time you were going through a tough time. Did you want a bunch of solutions thrown at you? Or did you just want to be heard? To know that the other person loves you? To get a hug? To be held while you cry without feeling judged or without needing to 'pull yourself together'?
So our problem is NOT that we are "trying to help them but they're not listening."
The problem is that WE are the ones not listening. We feel drained because we feel HELPLESS because don't know how to help. So instead of peppering them with solutions, try asking, "___, I love you, and I can see that you're not feeling well. What can I do to best support you right now?"
And when they answer, LISTEN. And TRUST. Trust them to tell you what they need. Trust that what they tell you is ENOUGH. Especially when the answer is NOTHING.
I know some of you are feeling, "No fucking way am I asking that! She's going to give me an entire list of shit that I don't want to do!" But you know, in all my years of coaching and all my years of practicing this myself, this almost never happens. Everyone wants to be seen, and asking that question above helps people to feel seen and heard.
So when I sit down, look someone in the eye, and say exactly what I wrote above, the response I usually get is, "Thank you, honey, you are doing more than enough and I appreciate all that you're doing."
And then WE realize that THAT'S all WE wanted all along! We just wanted validation that we are doing ENOUGH. We want validation that we are indeed valued and appreciated. We want validation that we are HELPING.
And then what if they do give you a list of shit to do? What would your response be?
Mine would be (said with love), "I will do my best. At the same time, I need to hear from you that you appreciate when I'm doing for you. When you give me lists like this without thanking me, it makes me feel under-appreciated. Can you do this for me please?" I take this not as "Omg, what an ungrateful bitch," but as an opportunity for me to practice my voice and my boundaries.
If they say no, they can't thank us more often, well, hallelujah! Another chance to practice using my voice, sharing my boundaries WITH LOVE, and essentially, my NEW STATE OF BEING ME! 🔥 lol #respectyourself
Now back to my mom. I was straight up feeling guilty this morning because my mom has been down with a cold and I haven't been doing much to help her. She's still doing her everyday stuff (if not more lol), just feeling a little more tired. And I ask her every day what I can do to help, and she keeps answering, "I'm ok, no need to do anything! You go do your work!"
But I feel GUILTY because I feel like I SHOULD BE doing more and I SHOULD BE a better daughter. Because she's not feeling better and she keeps saying she's fine when she's so clearly not, I must be a HORRIBLE DAUGHTER. Lol.
My poor ego. It feels threatened because part of my self identity is "(Very) Good Daughter."
So I am reminding myself that I am a wonderful, loving, caring daughter. And I am enough.
And when I worry that she's not telling me what she needs, I can tell her, "I love you, and I'm here for you. Just let me know when I can do something to help you!" and then TRUST that she actually will tell me.
Alright, long one for you today. Thank you for reading!
I love you guys!
PS: Happy International Women's Day! A little group of preschoolers just walked past this coffeeshop with "Empowered women empower women" signs. Adorable!
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