Have you ever tried to help a loved one who’s stuck with their problem but they rejected your help? Or worse, went into a negative spiral? Used you as their emotional punching bag? You’re still there for them because you care. But doesn’t that take a toll on you?
I hear you! I’ve been there, too. In fact, I still am. It’s tough when you try hard to be supportive but it doesn’t seem to help at all. You start to wonder if you’ve made things worse and feel terrible. Or you get really frustrated and angry and want to throw in the towel. But you can’t, because you love them, after all.
I’ve thought a lot about how to help someone without experiencing that energy drain. Without having to care less or close the door on them. To be comfortably detached yet fully present.
Here are some questions I’ve asked myself when facing a loved one who’s stuck. I hope you find them useful, too.
Am I taking good care of myself right now?
It helps to remember that the stuck one isn’t behaving optimally right now. The shocking, irritating, offending or hurtful actions they’re doing is precisely due to the fact that they’re stuck. Not because they’re flawed as a human being (even though we might think so in the moment). They don’t know how to get unstuck, so they’re acting out.
This is hard for anyone to deal with. Feelings like resentment, frustration, impatience, anger, fear, helplessness, overwhelm, shock, shame and/or guilt can take over. When that happens, you get stuck right along with them. It takes a lot of self discipline to handle this kind of situation without losing yourself.
So if you’re not feeling up to task, before you attend to anyone else, attend to yourself first. Acknowledge your emotional state. Take time off to rest and recharge. And don’t hesitate to get extra support.
To be able to help others, you really do need to help yourself first.
Am I trying to solve a problem that isn’t mine?
It’s difficult to see someone you care about suffer. They’re stuck in a glaringly obvious (to you) disempowering loop. You see them walking down a path that only leads to pain. But if they’re not taking well to your advice or feeling resentful that you don’t understand them (which you have to admit is partially true), that means your approach isn’t the solution they need.
As much as you want to help your loved ones, the hard truth is, you can’t solve a problem that isn’t yours to solve. Each of them has their own journey to travel. They may need to stumble and fall (or crash and burn) before they realize what’s not working. They may have made up their minds and aren’t interested in changing it right now. You have to accept all of that.
So, take a step back and breathe.
What is the gift or blessing in this situation?
Every challenge in life provides a valuable learning opportunity. It teaches you what you want, need and value. What you believe in. What resources and strengths you have. What your limits are. Where your boundaries lie.
It teaches you about your loved one, too. Qualities and aspects you hadn’t paid attention to before. How they think and operate. What they want and value. Their sublime uniqueness. You may never understand them, but you can respect your differences.
The challenge you’re facing with your loved one who’s stuck isn’t so much about the other. It’s about yourself and the relationship you have with them. In spite of the difficulties, you might discover there are positive things in this situation to be grateful for.
So, instead of being analytical, be curious.
What else can I do here?
The bottom line is, you just want to see your loved one be OK: happy, healthy, thriving. Yet, you can’t continue doing what you’ve done up to now because they’re resisting. If you keep it up, you could hurt your relationship. So what can you do instead?
Maybe you can let them know you’re their unequivocal champion? Or that they’re loved unconditionally? How could you express it in a way that makes sense to them?
Maybe you could set a positive example? What could your actions and language model that would be helpful? What message do you want to convey?
Maybe they’re stuck in their own thinking ruts and have absolutely no idea what else is possible? What can you say that could expand their perspective without denying theirs?
Be creative and explore – this is an opportunity to learn.
I hope these questions will help as you try to help a loved one who’s stuck! If you’re in a similar situation, feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and stuck trying to help someone, I would be more than happy to help YOU. Please let me know what’s happening through the contact form below and mention you’re responding to this post!