How are you? –Don’t want to know *
One of the reasons I stopped being actively involved in a spiritual organization some years ago was because of the emphasis on helping people. Yes, you read that right. You many ask “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? When we see suffering in the word, aren’t we meant to help alleviate it?”
I believe this as much as most people do. I had a role as a compassionate listener. I was supposed to “know the truth” for the person, to know that in spite of how things looked, and despite the tale they just told me of suffering and woe, all was really perfect.
The thing is, I do believe this. The perfection part. What I’ve come to understand, at least for myself, is that the perfection is not “in spite of” their troubles, it is along with them. My stance now is that people have difficulties (myself included) because of a block in their energy somewhere along the way. It could have been caused by something that happened this morning, or 30 years ago, but it really doesn’t matter “when”. It doesn’t even matter “why”. What matters is that I, or a person that has consulted me,is feeling held back in some way from all they sense they could be. And our job, together, is to release the energy from the block as quickly as possible, which has the effect of allowing the opposite circumstance—something that IS wanted—to flow into the space where the block had been.
This has several advantages. It doesn’t require therapy, counseling, reliving past trauma, or prayer, all of which I have found slow-going over the years, and frankly, kind of boring after a while.
I know I have “entertained” sympathetic friends in the past by telling them why I am the way I am. “If only” I’d say, “my mother had done ‘X’ instead of ‘Y’, it would have been so much easier for me to do ‘Z’. ‘They’ hurt me, therefore how would you expect me to be fully functional?”
I think that the majority of us have had some mistreatment at one time or another. And, granted, for some it was truly horrible, whereas for others not as much. Factored in must be our own personalities and coping skills—some people bounce back relatively well from severe trauma, where others can be devastated by what looks to an outside observer a small event. I believe it is best not to judge others by their reactions to things. As the saying goes, we do not know their path, neither have we walked in their shoes. All I can do as a facilitator, or a friend (including to myself) is to recognize what wants to be changed, and be thankful that I know some techniques that usually quickly and efficiently allow us to let go of the unwanted residual energy. My favorite technique is described here, but there are others I use and that other people have found. I no more want to give a method; a technique, the status of “guru” than I do a person.
It is my opinion that if someone repeats the same story about how awful it was and how they got “done to” over and over—even if it was really awful, perhaps particularly if that’s true—they end up spending more time in all that unpleasantness rather than moving forward. There are some recent psychological studies that indicate that dwelling on past trauma in effect re-traumatizes the client, when there is no method provided to release the emotional block. **
We love to tell our stories. We love to have, or provide, a sympathetic ear. I no longer see it as my job, though, to “counsel” people, either professionally or personally, as a friend. In the work that I do in this area, I will listen, compassionately—for a while. Maybe ten minutes if the person is new to all this. Then I gently ask, “Would you like to feel better?” —“Yes, but I haven’t told you all the details, ramifications, and consequences yet!” —“I know, but I’ve already heard three things we can work on right now, in order to help to release that-which-is-unwanted and bring more joy into our lives. How about we a couple of things, and then we can talk more…”
Usually, that works. But it’s not so much about the client’s issues (actually these days, I only facilitate groups, I don’t see individual clients), but to cut through all the story and get right to feeling better. This fits my philosophy as a pragmatic relativist. The “pragmatic” part means I want results, quickly, here on the earth plane. The “relativist” means that i also have my head in the clouds, wondering about the meaning of it all—most enjoyable. 🙂
For me, “counseling” people doesn’t work any more, for my own peace of mind. If someone wants that, there are people to go to other than me, and I have a referral list at the ready. For me, again, “counseling” implies there is something wrong, needing to be fixed. Whatever my ideals, or spiritual beliefs are telling me, it is difficult for me not to want to make things better or nicer for another person, when in “counseling” mode. Not my job.
When I first learned about Buddhism, I heard a story that, I admit, shocked me at the time: “A disciple comes to the Buddha and asks ‘Master, how do I become enlightened?’ The Buddha replies, ‘None of your business!””
What? What kind of answer was that, from someone known for compassion? What do you think he meant? I’m certainly no expert at interpreting Buddhist teachings, but after I got over my initial shock at the answer, I learned that life is not about “attaining enlightenment”, or anything else, as a goal. This would be looking to a rather self-aggrandizing future that may or may not happen. Everyday enlightenment comes upon us gradually by letting go of hurt and disillusionment, and embracing joy. One day, whether it be in a dramatic flash of insight, or just quietly, noticeably, we’ll realize we are enlightened, if that is our path. But to strive or reach for it, or want it to the exclusion of living in the now will put it further and further out of reach.
Therefore, I no longer try to make things “nice” for people. I do not inquire into their motives. None of my business. I do try to live as authentically as I can, because by this, when I’m connected to my all-ness, and live from there, I will be of most use to the world.
Namasté; Peace; Salaam; Shalom.
* I really do care how you are. ♥ Beingness is the most important thing about you, and I do like hearing about your day, and the events in your life–fun, or not as much. The title is just intended to make a point.
**Articles cited here are not presented as conclusive or comprehensive, just as examples of an ongoing discussion.