Today, I want to look at a very simple idea.
Accepting what is yours to deal with and what isn’t.
This may seem a simple idea but ruling knowing it can transform how you work with anyone in a helping roll that you might have. The best way for you to see this in action is for me to talk bout a young person I have worked with. We’ll call them Sarah.
Sarah was dealing with a lot of anxiety which was really effecting their work and interaction with other students at school. As we explored this they shared that they had a family member a cousin, the same age as them, who was dealing with depression and anxiety of their own. They were really close to that person and was very concerned for their well being.
Along side this they were being told by worried adults in the family how important she was to this family member because: “she was the only person to make them happy”. Therefore it was really important that she continue to go around to help change their mood when they were down.
Of course Sarah was incredibly worried. How could she, really make someone happy. What could she do that would change the mood or attitude of this family member. She fell pressure from everyone. No one knew what it was that she did that had such a great effect. Either did Sarah. What if she went around and forgot what she said last time. What if she didn’t make them happy this time. So many question of what she should or could do. So she came to me and asked for advice.
After listening and asking a few questions, I reflected one important thing. It seemed true that after spending time in Sarah’s company she saw a significant improvement in the mood of her cousin. This was true. So what was going on when they were together.
Sarah looked at me and said:
“I just listened. I asked questions about other things in their life. I made as couple of jokes. We played XBOX and messed around. When they cried, i just gave them a hug.”
So I asked: “What do you see the adults doing with your cousin when they are down?”
Answer: “They ask whats wrong and then they get cross when they don’t hear an answer and then the arguments start and my cousin gets worse.”
Even hearing this Sarah was still looking for the “secret sauce” to fix her cousin and make them happy.
“So what should I do to make them happy?” She asked.
As we explored the answer to this question, you could see the weight lifting off of her. We realised that we were learning 2 things.
The act of sitting with someone and accepting their pain and allowing them space to just “be” can be more powerful than a silver bullet answer to solve all the problems
When we accept that sometimes we can’t fix someones pain but we can journey with someone as they carry it, we can approach them not with answers but acceptance.
This has been a timely message for me as I start work with 12 new young people this week and hear 12 new stories. I may not be able to have a solutions focused approach to some of their issues. There may not be solutions to their situations. However, I can be someone, like Sarah, who can sit with their pain and accept it, while around them everyone is shouting for answers to questions that are unanswerable.
So like Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, when he yearns to carry the ring, for Frodo, to Mordor. We realise we cannot. But we can make sure that they navigate the path. Making sure they know they are not alone.