The Problem Express
The topic of how to care without becoming overwhelmed by problems that aren’t yours has surfaced more than a few times in my consulting work lately. Let’s take a look at this common dilemma.
Check and see if you are being held hostage by your capacity to care. Caring about others is a quality that is usually held in high esteem. However, there is a little known truth that if I care about you more than you care about yourself, you control me.
Think about it. Have you ever become enmeshed in someone’s life drama and been turned upside down with concern for their situation? They tell you what they are up against in graphic detail. It is serious. Dire. There seems to be no way out. You marshal all the resources at your disposal. After much thought and effort, you find a workable solution. You are feeling proud. The lone ranger rides again, coming on to the scene, complete with silver bullets.
You present your solution, unveiling it like the premier showing of a new work of art. Your friend responds with “Yes, but…” You say: “What do you mean, but? This will work. It’s all set up. You hardly have to do a thing.”
“Yeah, I know, but…” There’s that word again. Enter in frustration. Disbelief. How could they respond this way? You have worked out the perfect solution. So what is the problem?
The problem is you are riding different trains.
Your friend is entrenched in the problem. She is an expert on her problem. She shared it with you. You heard the problem and immediately jumped over to solutions. She is still riding the problem train. You, on the other hand, leapt onto the solution train that travels on the opposite track.
She is not ready for a solution. The Problem Express only carries problems. The problem train is packed to the rafters with problem cargo and there is no room for solutions.
Here is your mistake. You assumed that since she communicated her problem to you, she is ready for a solution. Wrong conclusion.
Think back. Did she ever ask for your help? Did she say, “I am ready to solve this problem. Please help me.” Of course not. You heard her story, felt her pain and jumped in. Why? If you look closely, you might find that your quick response is motivated by your own unfulfilled need to be supported by others.
After all, how did you get to be such a superb problem solver to begin with? Probably by being left alone to muck through personal hurts and heartaches virtually unsupported or maybe you have an extremely hard time asking for help. Maybe you wish others would intuit when you are in trouble so you don’t have to risk feeling exposed and vulnerable by asking for help. Anyway, I think you get the point.
If your caring is creating interactions like the one above, it may be time to learn the art of re-directing your caring back home. Put more attention on self-nurturing. Learn more about what makes you happy and fulfilled. Perhaps you have been trying to make everyone important to you comfortable and happy, so that you can relax too.
I know you already know this but it bears repeating. You can’t force anyone happy. Furthermore, you cannot solve a problem you didn’t create. Can you still help? Of course, as long as you allow the true responsibility to rest with the person who owns the problem. Respect their right to learn and grow from their own challenges.
So, how can you move from being a victim of caring to becoming responsible with this gift of a generous heart?
Cultivate the courage to discover and uncover your own unfulfilled needs and when invited to take a walk in someone else’s inner landscape, refrain from trying to re-arrange their flowerbeds.
Susan is the author of: Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Find her at: http://www.susanvelasquez.com or (949) 494-7773.