We’ve all heard this bit-of-wisdom, in some form, at some point in our lifetime:
"Ya gotta take care of yourself FIRST, before taking care of others."
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We’ve all heard this bit-of-wisdom, in some form, at some point in our lifetime:
"Ya gotta take care of yourself FIRST, before taking care of others."
Listen to new 7 minute Podcast:
The other day I covered 10 things you should not say to a loved one if you don’t want your name to come up in her therapy sessions. It covered a lot of ground, so I get why some folks would say, “Then what the hell CAN I say?” I’ve been thinking about that, and here’s my list. Some of them may require a personality adjustment, so just skip those.
1. Can I relieve your stress in any way?
One thing all writing manuals say is SHOW don’t TELL. Words aren’t all that helpful to a person struggling with depression. Because let me speak from experience … almost everything she hears will somehow be twisted to sound like an insult. Every suggestion–St. John’s Wort? Organic apples? Yoga?–are going to come off as: You are doing something terribly wrong and this is all your fault.
SO what I found most comforting when I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps is when a friend came over and fixed me lunch, or when someone offered to tidy up my place. I realize that sounds a tad pampered and self-indulgent, but we wouldn’t think twice about doing it for someone who is going through chemo. Why not go there for a person battling a serious mood disorder?
2. What do you think might help you to feel better?
This one I picked up from parenting manuals. If you tell a little girl to stay away from the Skittles because she becomes demonic after indulging in those tasty sweets, that’s not really going to do much more than shove five in her mouth. However, if you say … “Do you remember when you slapped Cousin Fred in the face at the picnic last week because you got excited after eating a bag of Skittles? Do you think there’s a chance of that happening again?” she MAY very well still desire the Skittles, and hell, she might even shove another five in her mouth; however, there is also a chance she will arrive at her own solutions and, say, … go for the doughnut instead!
3. Is there something I can do for you?
Again, like number one, this is a SHOW not TELL moment, and those are very effective at communicating compassion. Chances are that the depressed person will just shake her head as she cries, but I can assure you that she will register your offer in that place instead her heart that says, “This person cares about me.” Now if she asks you to file her tax return, I apologize sincerely.
4. Can I drive you somewhere?
Here’s something that most people don’t know about folks battling depression: they are really bad drivers. REALLY bad. In fact, when I was admitted into the inpatient psych unit at Johns Hopkins, I was shocked that one of the questions was, “Have you received any speeding tickets, or ran into other cars, or big orange columns in parking garages that got paint all over your Honda and pissed off your husband?” When I inquired with the nurse why that question was on there, she said “bad driving is an easy way to diagnose a mood disorder.”
All I can say there is: True. True. True. So, this suggestion is not only to help out your depressed friends who maybe do need some fish oil or tissue paper from the drug store, but also all the other people on the road.
5. Where are you getting your support?
Notice the difference between saying, “Are you going to any support group meetings?” which implies, “If you aren’t, you are one lazy son of a bitch who deserves to be depressed.” And “Where are you getting your support?” which says, “You need some support. Let’s figure out a way to get it.”
I recently went on a 12-day business trip to Europe with two colleagues. One said to me as we got on the plane, “I’m watching my weight. Will you help me eat right by reminding me to eat salads and chicken?” One night we’d been working late and were sitting around waiting for others to go out to dinner. My dieting friend arrived with several bags of chips for the group. As he tore into one, I privately reminded him of his request. “I completely forgot,” he replied. “Thanks for reminding me.”
Asking others to support your new behavior can be tricky. The last thing you need is to have someone nag at you. “You promised me you’d never smoke again!” I used to cry hysterically at my now-ex every time I caught him with a cigarette. It was highly ineffective. He started doing it behind my back; I was always suspicious. That is one of the potential pitfalls of enlisting help—you could start to sneak around. Or get resentful and the change backfires.
Here are a few tips to avoid destructive dynamics when asking others to help you:
· You must be the one who makes the request for support;
· Pick someone without a vested interest—I was not the wife of the dieter who asked for a reminder. He may have bristled more at her than me;
· You must be explicit about what kind of help you’d like. It’s probably not a lecture. Something simple like: Did you write your ten pages today? Or it could be a code between the two of you, like the words yellow submarine to help you from mindlessly eating the donut in front of you;
· The other person must deliver the reminder and then back off—follow through is up to you.
· If people reminders cause too much tension, rely on more impersonal technologies—notes, scheduling it in your day planner, screen savers, emails you set up to be sent automatically to yourself.
I wanted to thank someone who had been kind to me. So I sent a bouquet of roses to her office. When ordering, I found out that peach roses stand for appreciation, so I delighted in sending an extra, nonverbal message. I imagined what a surprise they would be, which pleased me even more.
I first started to enjoy the happiness that comes from giving to others when my friends and I published the book Random Acts of Kindness. Suddenly I was flooded with letters (this was in the dinosaur days before email) from people telling me about the joy they’d experienced as doers of these acts. I will never forget the letter from the high school senior who told me that he’d been going to kill himself until he read the book and decided that life was worth living. He inspired me to become more kind to strangers and to those I’m close to. Like the boy who didn’t kill himself, I got happier.
The reason we feel happy when we spread happiness is because we experience something I’ve never heard spoken of in Western culture. I’ve just finished reading over fifty books on happiness and only one mentions it! Buddhists call it mudita—sympathetic joy. It’s an upswelling of the heart at the happiness of someone else.
Sympathetic joy is the opposite of envy. It’s one of the reasons why giving, when it comes from a genuine feeling of overflow–wanting to bring happiness to someone else rather than from a sense that we have to–feels so good. We experience in ourselves the good feelings of the other person.
Actually the giver gets a double whammy of happiness—anticipatory joy in thinking of how the person is going to feel, as well as the actual moment when he or she receives the gift. Sympathetic joy is such a wonderful feeling that you don’t even have to be there when the person receives the gift to feel great. That’s what’s behind random acts of kindness, for instance—just thinking about how the person is going to feel when you put a quarter in the parking meter and doesn’t get a ticket–gives you a bolt of pleasure.
You don’t have to buy elaborate gifts or spend a lot of time or effort. You can get the boost from giving to others in many ways: surprises to a relative in the form of a text message, the perfect card for a friend.
Have you ever been with someone who, when they do you a courtesy and you offer thanks, says, “My pleasure?” It truly is a pleasure to spread kindness, even if it’s simply holding the door for someone who is struggling with a load of packages.
Anyone who’s lost a beloved family member, significant other, or friend is all too familiar with how wrenching—and often never-ending—the grieving process feels. Often, people in mourning are so consumed by their sadness that they lose sight of how to ask for help, or what to ask for. For these individuals’ relatives and friends standing by, wanting to offer assistance but not knowing exactly what the grieving person needs most, this feeling of powerlessness, coupled with seeing their loved one suffer, can be devastating. But the last thing you should do is fade into the background just because your friend hasn’t actively solicited your aid. Instead, consider the following kind gestures.
It requires a lot of discipline to realize that the only way I can help a person is by not getting into the mud with them; let me explain that a bit. When someone is in the mud, the worse we can do is to jump in to try to get him or her out. Because once we jump into the mud, well, we are making things worse, because now there are two of us trying to get out. When there are two people trying to get out, it just gets deeper and deeper, depending on the mud. Sometimes the mud may not be that bad, but because we are trying so desperately to get out, making all this motion, it gets worse.
Growing up, my brothers, friends, and I used to sit around and have what we would call, "Slam Sessions". This was the adolescent version of a celebrity roast. We would poke fun at one another and crack jokes like mad. These "Slam Sessions" made each of us very quick witted, but they also taught us how to hurt another person through our words. Most of the time, these sessions were all in fun and the jokes never personal, but on occasion, someone would take offense to a comment or joke and their pain would be expressed in one of many ways.
Typically, when a person felt personally attacked, they would escalate the situation, and take their anger out verbally with what we called a "Cutting Blow". This was when the person took something very personal about the other person and made a callous joke of it. This was intended to be extremely hurtful and was loaded with spite. This of course would lead to further escalation between the two verbal combatants.
Another means of expressing one’s pain during these sessions was to simply shutdown and take the ridicule. One would put on a happy face, but deep down, their heart and their spirit were bruised and hurting. One often felt betrayed and belittled. As time wore on, and the ridicule continued, it would simply lead to resentment and hatred toward those that continually knocked you down.
Now that I am older, and have analyzed my experiences from those "Slam Sessions", I have come to a very powerful understanding of how our words and deeds affect others. For in this existence we always have a choice to either build people up or break them down through our words and actions. Although we were supposedly "joking" with one another, all we were actually doing was tearing each other down. We were creating an environment of negativity through our words, which would often lead to spite or resentment. Thus, negativity of word begot negativity of emotion and action.
It is not very hard to come across negativity in this world. Just read any blog or article. Or the comments in response to a blog or article. It is amazing to see just how much hate, anger, and negativity is out there. You can also find negativity of words and deeds in relationships. Whether it be emotional abuse, physical abuse, or abuse of one’s trust, these negative actions will have the negative consequence of tearing someone down. You will also find negativity in the workplace or school environment. Whether it be talking behind someone’s back, public ridicule, or personal misconduct, it will negatively impact the live’s of others.
In this existence, the object is not to tear one another down, but to build each other up and help each other shine. This is easier said than done in a society where it is much easier to hate and tear down, than it is to love and encourage. The simplest way to become a builder of spirit, is through Positivism. Through words that are positive and encouraging. Through actions that are positive and helpful.
There is a famous saying, "If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all." We all are at times guilty of not heading this sage advice, but the more we strive to achieve this, the more positive our world will be. We must all be cognizant of the impact our words will have on the well being of others. We must be certain that the words that we share are positive and encouraging.
We are all spiritual farmers. We each carry our own spiritual seeds that we pass along to those people that we meet. What those seeds will become in the intended recipient is completely dependent upon how they are sown. When our words are positive, the seeds will blossom into flowers and trees within the recipient’s spiritual and emotional garden. When our words are negative, the seeds will develop into weeds within the recipients spiritual and emotional garden. Whether the seeds grow into flowers or weeds, the recipient will more often than not, pass this seed along to others. Often times, we never see the fruits of our spiritual farming, but as it relates to family and friends, you can often see the results of your spiritual seeds constantly.
As it relates to Positivism, the main thing to consider is, "Do I want to spread flowers or weeds?"
It can be difficult to remain positive, especially when attacked by negativity, but by lowering one’s self to that level, you are allowing the negative to win and the weeds to grow in your garden. By applying Positivism to your existence, you can keep the weeds at bay and be certain that the seeds you pass along will grow into flowers in others. Each day I focus on being positive, encouraging others, loving others, and spreading seeds that will grow into flowers. My goal each day is to build people up and help them shine. When we help others reach their potential, we help ourselves, and we help the world become a more positive place. So, I ask this of you today, "Are your words and deeds positive? Are you planting flowers or weeds through your words and deeds?"
Each day is a new day to start being positive and to make a difference in a very negative world. Be a positive spiritual farmer today and let’s see just how beautiful our gardens can become.
Blessings on your journey.
I was wondering if there is any knowledge you have that could help me? I am a prisoner of circumstance. I am 32 years of age and have lived my life in the service of others, protecting others…hoping that one day I would be relieved or that an opportunity would arise to take me out of these circumstances. I could have had a much better life on my own but I would had to have abandoned the ones I loved and other good people. Now, I am still in the same circumstances, time has passed, and I have had no life for myself, yet my situation only worsens, and will only worsen still and with greater swiftness and consequence than before. I would be happy to die, or not exist, though I do not feel depression only anger and now hopelessness. Thank you for your time.
It’s not clear from your letter who these people are that you have lived your life in the service of. Are they sick parents, your disabled children, or just ne’er-do-well friends? If helping and protecting these people is gotten to the point where you are angry, hopeless and ready to die, then you need to assess who these people are to you and does your sense of responsibility for them really extend to the point of you no longer wanting to live? Even if they are immediate family and utterly dependent upon you, you may need to consider other ways they can be helped without it crippling your own life and hopes. If you can arrange for others to share in assisting them, then you wouldn’t be abandoning them, an d you would be freed up to pursue your own life.
Monday – first day of the week; task one; wake up. check.
2. connect with higher source and feel grateful to be alive.
3. turn alarm clock off (that hasn’t gone off yet). woke up earlier than I needed to so I could stress a bit about volunteering in the homeless shelter. Lots of things to stress about ..should I be working there? is it too dangerous for me to risk my welfare? am I valued there? is this a lifelong commitment or shall I just drag myself in and see what sort of negative vibes I have got to wade through..
4. put kettle on
5. run bath
6. time spent in bath, washing hair, soaping and drinking tea – 20 minutes.
7. dry long curly, unruly, water logged hair whilst still thinking about the pros and cons of going to the homeless centre
why am I getting ready to go in if I have half decided not to go?
but I have said I am going to go -v- no-one will expect me to be there or not
my word is my bond -v- no-one will be bothered if I go or not
I am committed to having a helping experience -v- the atmosphere is unpleasant
I want to help -v- the kitchen has a condemned cooker
I am using my gifts to be of the best use I can be -v- there are mice in the kitchen
I am going to brighten someones day -v- there is a lot of moisture to breathe in the kitchen
I am going to feel better by helping people -v- there is nowhere to keep my handbag
8. Wake teenage son and run the bath again
9. pile of today’s clothes on the ironing board
10. Southend radio – bit of music may sway the balance between the homeless centre or… not
11. that is the kicker; calling in to say I don’t want to volunteer anymore; I can’t handle the atmospheres, the people arguing, the fighting, the hatred; dealing with homeless people who hate anyone who has, god forbid, a car – just so I can help people who need me;
12. the volunteer Manager has pissed off on a tree – planting ‘jolly’ with 11 helpers in a mini bus; so I can’t even speak to my regular boss about the fact that I don’t want to go in.
13. dressed; brushed; hair tied back (kitchen rules).
14. teenager armed with lunch money .. check; keys..check; mobile phone..check; rapid signature to a letter home from school; a drive to school. Kick him out at the drop off point; turn the car round; return home.
15. park up; rush back indoors; last minute homeless centre preparations – lose the credit card and cash from my purse; no, ditch the purse and leather bag completely; hare around hunting for old gym bag, to carry phone and keys. that is it, bare minimum.
16. debate over whether to wear woollen coat (looks bad and also WILL pick up the smell from the kitchen);
17. ipod; gym bag; leave home.
To return hours later after a long stressful day in a homeless centre; only to be reminded that my concerns pale into insignificance by comparison with the guy who is sleeping on a concrete step at night; feeding 25 people with hotdogs and soup because the cooker doesn’t work; hearing about the ‘goings on’ and the argy bargy – of which there is quite a lot. I come home, tired, physically drained but actually with a feeling of having spent my day in a worthwhile occupation.
18. Thank God for allowing me to have overcome my lower self and drag my carcuss into a homeless centre where my right speech; right thinking and right actions have made me a better person today.
Lots of love and light to all of you who need it.
I have been meditation for the past year for a half an hour to forty five minutes a day
and have been working with an energy healer. I have noticed a wonderful shift in consciousness. All my senses are amplified and the world looks intensified. I also feel a deep sense of calm and peace.
I want to help others get to this place. If they have a similar practice as mine will they become awake or was my shift of consciousness an act of god that cannot be planned?
Congratulations on your shift of awareness. Your growth came about through your dedication and focus, but also because you were ready, willing and able to make that transformation. Everyone is different and grows at their own pace and on their own terms. So if another person duplicated your recent efforts, they would not have your experience, they would have the experience that they needed and were ready for.
When you set out to help others spiritually, you need to bear this in mind, so you are always encouraging them to find themselves at their own pace, on their own terms and through the path that is appropriate for them.
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