Our natural reaction, generally, when seeing a loved one in emotional or physical pain, is to try and fix it.
Maybe there is someone you care for who is in a relationship which looks and feels destructive and unhealthy yet they cannot seem to take steps to change it. Or perhaps someone you love is sick but they are not wanting to make changes to help themselves . Or maybe your partner or family member seems set on a path which is causing them great difficulty. No amount of conversations or helpful support and suggestion seems to make any difference, you may even be pushed out of their life, they seem determined to carry on with what you may consider to be unhelpful and unhealthy behaviour, physically, emotionally or spiritually.
Many of us, myself included, want to step in and offer assistance in some way, that is completely natural to want to do. We want to fix things for those we care about but sometimes that support is pushed away. Witnessing a friend or family member in emotional pain causes us to feel pain too, so the urge to try to stop that pain can be overwhelming. You may feel so helpless, frustrated and full of grief.
Above all, in whatever situation you may be encountering, we want our loved ones, friends, family, partners, etc to be OK! We want them to heed our advice, to find a way through their problems and to sort things out. We want them to be happy and when we see them unhappy but not changing things we can become immersed in pain and misery ourselves, we can become too embroiled in emotionally charged situations and end up sick ourselves, either emotionally or physically or sometimes both!
If this is sounding bells for you then stop for a moment and consider the questions. Is this person not ready or willing or indeed able to make changes, that from the outside looking in seem obvious? What if it is their path to be going through these difficulties? What if they are learning a valuable lesson or perhaps teaching one, or a bit of both? Well, then comes one of the hardest things of all for a caring person to decide to do – Nothing. No thing. Zilch. Bugger all – other than love.
We have to accept that there is nothing we can do that will, on the surface, make any difference. That all our well meant advice, support, guidance, words of wisdom, bottles of wine, tea, cake, sympathy and love may not do anything at all.
Writing or reading these words seems so simple, putting “doing nothing” into practice is not quite so easy! When your natural instinct is to protect then switching it off is virtually impossible. Do I really just have to stand here and watch someone I love heading for a fall? Yes, put simply, yes, sometimes that is exactly what you have to do and it is perhaps one of the toughest things we can experience. But, there is a big consolation in all this…
Doing nothing CAN actually be doing something. Sometimes, the biggest gift you can give is to allow. Allow others the space to follow the path they have chosen. Allowing someone to fall without catching them CAN be a kindness, not a disservice. That person probably needs to go through the process of learning for themselves, of allowing their intuition to guide them to the right choices. If we keep stepping in to save them then how will they come to their own conclusions? Loving someone to such a degree that you are prepared to step back and allow them the space to do whatever it is they feel they need to can be enough. It seems ironic that the art of doing nothing should be so difficult but if, like me, you find it hard to do nothing then take heart!
To love someone who is suffering and to allow them to continue suffering if that is what they choose is an incredibly hard thing to do but just being there offering silent support and love sometimes has to be enough. Every situation is different and we have to try to have a logical head at times, rather than a sorrowful heart. Some may choose to walk away completely if they find a situation too painful to watch and that of course is for you to decide, detaching yourself from the outcome of another’s decisions for some is the only way. There is no judgement, you have to do what you feel is best for you in these situations and if that means taking time away from things to not have to be faced with that pain then that is what you must do. If you are able to stay in that person’s life but remain slightly detached then that is wonderful but do not be harsh on yourself if you cannot do that. Remember, the love you feel for someone will not go away, you are just allowing them the space they need, and this may be the most perfect gift you could ever give, loving someone enough to allow them their own choices, even if you disagree.
This is intended for anyone witnessing a loved one suffer and to reach out and to hug YOU and to let you know that sometimes, not fixing things is the right thing to do.