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How to Help Our Loved Ones Heal.
“All I want to do is help.
I can see they are hurting.
I can feel something weighing them down.
But they don’t seem to realise.
Or they don’t know what to do.
And it impacts our relationship too.”
We are invariably intertwined and interlinked with those that are close to us. We don’t always choose who we love and sometimes, challenges occur, that push us closer together, that create an immovable bond. It is reasonable, therefore, to empathise when they themselves are hurting or to recognise their open, seeping wounds, when perhaps they are not able to. Something about being removed emotionally from the things that trigger them. And sometimes, we see repeating patterns, persevering topics of contention, and it feels so clear to us, so simple, that if we could address this one thing, there would be a huge change.
It is not that we want to fix them or change them, but if we could perhaps just take some time with this area, tweak slightly, we know how much more free they would feel.
The first thing to ask if you are feeling like this is, why?
What is it about someone else, that you feel needs healing? How is this manifesting? Is it purely them or is there conflict that involves the both of you? And if so, what are you bringing into the equation?
My second question is, what is your capacity?
If you want to embark on this journey of support with them, check in with your capabilities and energy first. How are you feeling? How much are you willing to give and for how long? Your answer should never have to be infinite. That is not a realistic reflection of your capacity. What does your giving entail in this and where is the limit? You do not have an endless cup to pour from and it is important for you to already have preventative measures in place for burn out in a process that could be lengthy.
It is also important to consider, at the back of your head (or perhaps at the forefront, depending on your current frame of mind), the possibility of this being a transition phase. A turning point. A crossroads. A sign of a relationship coming to a natural close. Because it is important to remember that all the relationships we choose should be a mutual exchange of energy, they should be life giving and soul nourishing, and yes perhaps there are times when the balance is slightly tipped, but the overall all cycle should always average out. If that is not the case, then it simply lends to some further thinking and consideration on your part regarding your energy investments.
My third question is, do they want to take this journey?
Is this something they have acknowledged? That they want to address? That they want to explore further? Or is it something they have no interest in? Or that they are only doing this for you?
No-one can take a healing journey for someone else. No-one can heal if they are not willing to put in the work. You cannot force someone to heal.
If it turns out that they have no interest in addressing this, then as the only person you can control, the ball is in your court. What is your response in that situation? Is there ‘lack of healing’ (for want of a better phrase) negatively impacting on you? Is this a deal breaker? Is this sustainable without being addressed? Perhaps, another potential crossroad point.
After asking yourself and your loved one a plethora of questions and identifying an apt willingness for your loved one to take this step and you to be a a supporting hand, my first thought is always to seek external help. Probably from a registered professional and my recommendation would be that of a psychotherapist.
You are not a therapist.
That is important to know. Not because you wouldn’t make a great therapist, but because it should not be an expectation for you to constantly carry the emotional labour for someone else. Outsource instead. It’s also important because your relationship together is supposed to be mutual, the relationship with a therapist is more one-sided, and you put that at risk if you switch up the roles. Also of note, your loved one may not feel comfortable talking to you about some things or may be concerned about hurting your feelings.
A psychotherapist can create an open, safe, unbiased space for discussion and exploration of their challenges and help to reveal the unconscious thought processes that drive them. This could also be something that could be completed together, depending on the specific circumstances.
Other things to consider on a person level include:
- Learning how to create space – open, non-judgemental, honest space.
- Allowing them to dictate the pace and intensity of their own growth – which also means allowing them to connect with you on their own terms (if they don’t want to talk about it, they shouldn’t have to).
- Continuing the relationship as per usual – go out, do fun things, adventure. They are healing and learning, they are not someone who needs to be coddled or shut in a room.
- Having time apart as individuals – time spent with other friends and exploring activities you both love outside of your relationship can also be incredibly healthy in regards to strengthening and healing your bond together.
- Recognising warning signs (and this is worst case scenario): are they isolating? Are they more irritable? Are they not getting out of bed? Are they not showering? Are they doing things out of character? If you notice these consistently, consider checking in with them, check in with your own support system, check in with some of their supports and make a collaborative plan together depending on the situation (e.g. seeing a GP is a good first step if possible), but ensure they are a part of those discussions and plan making too.
Overall, remember that no matter how much you want to help someone else, you need to check in with yourself first and also question whether this is something they actually want without making assumptions and without forcing them. Checking in with yourself is also an on-going process. Remember that regardless of someone’s own healing journey – you should still be treated with respect, care and dignity – that is never up for debate or discussion.
The journey is better together, but you still have to be the driver in your own car.
- What do I need from this relationship and this person?
- What do I feel is limiting our ability to connect?
- What is limiting our our ability to grow together?
- Where is my current capacity for emotional support?
- How can I support them that is also within my means?
- How might I be forcing their hand on this subject?
- What am I hoping to get out of this journey they are undertaking?
- Who are people that I can seek support from to discuss this?
Listen to Episode One of Take A Seat for further discussion around this topic, though more specifically in reference to significant others.