Learning to stay in the mud
All of us who have kids have heard a thousand times the recommendation not to protect our kids too much: let them experiment for themselves, learn, fall, get back up and figure out a better way to go on.
But how does it feel to stand there, see them struggle in the muddy pond, and not jump in to help them get out? To me, it just feels painful.
While it is certainly common to be a bit over-protecting with our kids, I personally feel this way in many other situations as well, in private as well as professional life.
When I see someone struggling, my immediate reaction is to jump in and help them out.
The hardest part of being a coach, for me, is staying with clients while they share their struggles and challenges and not trying to move them into problem-solving mode, or even worse trying to solve their struggles for them. In other words… staying in the uncomfortable mud.
If you know anything about the Enneagram Personality Test, you might correctly guess I am The Helper.
The positive energy I get when I help others to overcome challenges and get a bit closer to their dreams, is most likely one of the reasons I decided to become a Coach.
Nothing wrong about being the Helper, but while acknowledging my good intentions, something made me aware that I might have been overplaying my strength.
A couple of months ago I participated in a workshop where participants were asked to check-in sharing their thoughts and feelings regarding a very challenging topic related to climate change.
I heard despair, frustration, and even rage.
The facilitator was able to just Hold the space and STAY with these feelings, without offering comfort, inviting action, or proposing solutions.
I was extremely uncomfortable.
I know how important is to share, and let other people share, our feelings, even when they are very difficult.
Yet, when these feelings are expressed, I feel the urge to do something about it, either by comforting people in their grief, helping them find a solution (or at least a first tiny step towards a solution), or inviting them to consider different perspectives or alternatives for action.
This was a big learning moment for me.
I realised my impulse to help find a “solution” that will bring people back to their joyful cheerful selves helps ME to get out of my discomfort but sometimes doesn’t help OTHERS to really dig into their feelings, stay there and move eventually on at their own pace.
Why am I so vulnerably sharing my experience with you?
Because I believe I am not alone, and that some of you might also be overplaying their Helper’s strength, to the point that it actually becomes a liability.
Next time you find yourself in a situation in which you feel the urge to jump in and help people regain their smile, try to ask yourself:
- Is getting into problem-solving and spirit-uplifting mode useful for them, right now, or do they just need time to sit with their uncomfortable feelings, might that be sadness, fear, grief, anger, disappointment… ?
- Can my always-helper mode be energy draining after a while, if I am not careful in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries?
Learning how to stay in the mud, just breathing and being.
Want to join this discovery path?