In the past few months, this ^^ belief that you get to be a helper or a receiver of help has come up for my clients again and again. They’ve seen themselves as someone who does all the helping or the one who is always in need of help, so the idea of being both is mind boggling. And even for those who have come to believe they can embody both, it seems there is another struggle–how can I both give help and receive help at the same time?
Truth is, it’s a really tough balance.
This past weekend, my friends needed some help: Sam broke up with her boyfriend, Toni was sick and miserable, and Jordan was extra stressed about her schoolwork. Meanwhile, I needed help. It snowed somewhere between 11 and 14 inches in Portland last week which essentially shut down the city for multiple days. Plus, my car was stuck in the snow and ice. So I was struggling hard with cabin fever and a puppy who wasn’t able to get enough exercise.
This doesn’t happen all the time. Typically, there’s more back and forth of these mini-crises and yet this time it all rained down.
So, the question came up: how can I both give help and receive help at the same time?
While there’s no perfect formula (that I know of), I think it’s mostly about being intentional with yourself as you receive help and your people in pain as you offer help. Here are some tips that might come in handy when you’ve got a case of the deep feels:
- listen first, speak second
- for you: be sure to take time to listen to what’s going on inside your head and heart. Sitting in silence or journaling can be helpful to get centered.
- for your people: sometimes all a person needs is to be heard, so start there. And really listen. If you can hear what a person is saying and reflect it back to them (typical therapist trick) they will likely feel like you get it and that sort of validation goes a long way.
- ask what is needed
- for you: know what you need to feel better–and then communicate that to your people. Getting through tough seasons of life goes much better when we aren’t trying to read each other’s minds.
- for your people: seriously, just ask them “what do you need right now?” This weekend, I gave Sam a list of options (validation, sympathy, empathy, commiserating, getting angry, etc) and once she told me, I was able to respond to her in a way that was still authentic to me and yet touched her in a way that felt like the support she needed.
- emphasize self-care
- I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. When in struggle, we need to put some extra effort into taking good care of ourselves. Do things you enjoy, nourish your body well, treat yourself kindly–and ask your people to do the same for themselves.
- if all else fails, just be present
- for you: pay attention to yourself. Don’t let other’s problems overshadow yours. There’s no struggle that is too small to be cared about.
- for your people: sometimes just being together when you and a friend are struggling can help. You don’t need to worry about having the right thing to say or way to solve the problem, just be a friend.
From what I’ve experienced personally and indirectly with my clients, it seems like the best, most fulfilling, longest lasting relationships are the ones that go both ways.
If you’re in one of those phases of life where you are able to give help often but find it difficult to receive help (because accepting it is hard or you don’t have people who help), shoot me an email and let’s talk more.