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Dealing with pain in ourselves and in others

A client recently told me that every time she met her closest friend who was depressed, she ended up exhausted and frustrated trying to “help” her friend feel better. Upon a closer look, she realised that it wasn’t a “good” feeling, she felt responsible as if she had to do something about her friend’s pain. So there was an underlying anxiety to help. This was a shocking discovery for her as she always thought her help came from an altruistic place.

It is usually difficult to recognize that we may be acting out of impatience when somebody is hurting. There might be a voice inside of us saying to that person in pain “come on, don’t feel bad, do something about it” or “come on, do what I say, I have a solution for you” Anything seems better than letting the person feel their feelings.

On many occasions, we don’t want to deal with any kind of emotional suffering whether in another person or in ourselves. Many of us tend to believe unconsciously that by controlling somebody else’s pain, we can control our own. Under this first layer of control, there are still our unaddressed uncomfortable feelings about people and situations but specially about ourselves so we cannot stand any more pain in anybody else.

When we notice that we are relating to another human being’s pain by being frustrated, we might turn it around and ask ourselves: How do I relate to my own pain? Am I impatient or compassionate? Am I trying to look at it, understand its message or just push it down in the hope that it won’t resurface?

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