One of the hardest things for the nurturing soul to deal with, isn’t not being able to help. It is not being allowed to do so. When someone doesn’t tell us about an illness, or a job worry, or a family or relationship rift, and we then learn about it later, maybe through back-channels, we are so certain we could have helped if only we’d known.
Our thought process, if not our actual conversations, start from if I’d known I could have…
However, there are problems with this idea and the assumptions that underlie it.
Yes, probably we could have… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that in practice we would have…. Our altruistic self can say whatever it wants to be true after the opportunity for action has passed. In the moment, in that past moment, when we might have been called upon, who knows what other stuff we might have had going on, what of our own personal issues might have been front and centre. Even something as simple as the mood we woke up in on the day we were told would have made a difference to how we reacted in the first few seconds of hearing the news. And with the big stuff, those first few seconds are crucial. We will never recall or recover from what we say or don’t say in that initial response. It cannot be improved upon or undone, no matter what we do or say once we have recovered ourselves.
So the first problem is that we could have helped, but we cannot know that we would have.
The second problem is that even we had done what we could have done, we cannot say whether it would actually have helped.
It may have been exactly what was needed, but equally it may have proved detrimental.
For example, at the very least we could have held them in mind, shown some empathy. But on occasion empathy can be (mis)construed as sympathy or, worse, pity, which on the part of the recipient engenders feelings of weakness when what they most need is to be feeling is strong in their own self.
I believe that sometimes we simply do have to walk into the dark cave on our own. We have to face our hopes and fears, and the messy knot they create between them, all on our own. Alone. Unsupported. Reliant on our inner resilience, strength, faith, or maybe even sheer bloody-minded-stubbornness to get us through.
I believe that we can only see ourselves clearly, we can only call in our own power, our own light, if there is no one other’s energy intruding. No matter how supportive and well-meant, other-person energy cannot perfectly resonate with our own frequency, because we are all individuals with our specific energetic signatures. At times, therefore, any other input will be interference. Not in the meddling, psycho-emotional sense, but in the purely physical wave-collision or interruption sense.
Let us look at this from the other side.
When we (as would-be helpers) find out later, there is anger / frustration / disappointment that arises from not having been told, from having been excluded from the circle of pain. This has nothing to do with the sufferer and everything to do with the helper, healer, fixer, rescuer. It is ego. When someone does not reach out to us for help, we feel rejected. We feel distrusted. We feel unwanted.
We forget entirely that it is not about us. It is about them.
We forget that in their pain and distress, they are (quite rightly) too engaged with their own storm to be worrying about hurting our feelings. The truth is, that by not reaching out to us in that moment, far from undermining us, they are demonstrating their absolute faith in us. They are confirming their subconscious heart-felt trust that we will still be there, waiting for them when they come back out of the cave or through the tunnel, when they are ready to talk about how it was and what they want and need next. They are trusting us not to judge their decisions, not to make their choices about their own best route, which they know better than we ever can, however misguided we might believe that to be, not to make any of that about us. It is not about us. It is about them.
And whenever we speak of how we felt or feel or could have / would have / might have helped, we are making it about us.
Worse than that, we are potentially casting blame upon them. Our better selves know they have enough to deal with already without having to worry about the rights and wrongs, the helps or hindrances of their past responses to the situation.
The compassionate response is: if I had known I might have been able to (do whatever) but equally maybe not and I respect your choice in not wanting to bring my energy into the circle on this occasion. If you have to face anything similar I am here for you before, during and after – whatever you need. I am here. And if you again feel you need to face it alone, I wish you strength in that decision. I will still be here.
And sometimes the best way to express that response is to not “express” it at all, but to just be there when they DO reach out.
One of my divination cards reads leap and the universe will catch you. I have a friend who says I want someone who will catch me when I fall. Personally, I think that sometimes we don’t want to be caught when we leap or fall – we just want to be sure that there is someone who will haul us back up again, help us pick the gravel out of our wounds and splint the broken splinters of our bones or our heart. Someone who will respect our ability to bear our pain, and to lessen it when and how we want them to.
There is an old saying that we should treat people as we would wish to be treated. It is a misconception. The biggest kindness isn’t to treat anyone as we would want to be treated, but rather as they would.