I remember distinctly how much I did not like being judged by my father. That knowledge keeps me easily in check with my own son. If he's happy, I'm happy. I don't lay on him guilt trips of what he should be doing, could be doing, would be doing. Never do I remember him of "what I've done for him," although he often enough brings it up to me, in a loving thankful way. It's nice. Feeling comfortable with him, feeling complete. And yet, the need to "fix" other people is a cruel seduction. When I see injustice when I see ignorance or just plain things gone awry, it is very hard not to want to put my two cents in.
Take my depressed friend, for example. We'll call him Paul. He has a physical therapist, a psycho therapist as well as a drinking buddy. So what does he need me for? Still when he lays on me and lays on me his world views full of dramatic rejection and fury I find myself biting my tongue to not offer advice when no advice was asked for. He wants to believe he was ignored by the waitress. He wants to yearn faithfully for a woman not interested in him. He wants to hear spite or malice when none was intended. He's prickly. It's not my business. It's not my journey. My modus operendi has been to avoid him when he gets too negative.
Or what about my friend addicted to drama? His life has become about making other people happy. He is a gentle soul full of intelligent opinions and life affirming habits. Does he really need to be so wrapped up in crazy land? The answer is yes, if he wants to it be yes. There has to be a time in life when we decide no one else is wrong. Nothing is wrong, life is just choice, choice, new choice. Nothing is wasted and nothing is ever lost.
I ask myself what is it about me that wants to fix people? It's a better part of me. It's a part that cares and wants to be connected. We feel sad when we feel people suffering. And it's also a worse part of me, it's the part that supposes I know better than you. How could I know better than you when I'm not you? That's when I need to back off and disengage.
A power struggle appeared when I lived with a woman who was too wildly invasive in my life. She had the same sort of judgments on me that made me uncomfortable as a young woman. She didn't want to believe someone as pretty and clever as me could have trouble finding a job in this economy so she started taking me to task for being unfocused and not committed enough. Frankly the pep talks she gave me about what employers look for, made me question whether I even wanted to be employed. What would be the point of expending so much energy just to get to a place which I hated? What if I like being in the now. What if I like having lots of free time to create, to hike, to write?
We walk a narrow walk when we go to advise. We better be real sure we are advising in the right direction. Her advice would have made sense of my goal was to make money at any price. Why not sell blood? Sell a kidney? Sell a soul? What meaning is there to ethics if a thing matches our purpose? She didn't know my purpose ran so far beyond the monetary. I wanted to be employed where I might be of value, where I could contribute, where I was compensated rightly. Frankly I don't care to be in an organization that values "lame." How would Joan know this when she took no time to find out?
Conversations with others become life alienating when we spend no time listening. When we are too eager to jump in with our own observations and critiques no one is served. Even our own ego takes a beating when we realize two hours of connection has not accomplished any kindness and life affirming purpose. We ought to be as careful with our time as we are with our money, if not more so. Money can be replaced, Not So with time.
When I feel myself going to a place of hurt in a conversation I start to silently ask myself, what am I needing at this moment. I remind myself to be gentle and full of compassion for myself. A lot of whether things are hurtful or not is in the wording. I could tell myself I am a good person, for having self preserving boundaries, or an avoidant person, for the exact same behavior. I might remind myself I was a protective mother because I got divorced or a bad mother because my marriage was so difficult. So much of how we phrase things is shaded in warm or cold.
My friend asked me who I was "avoiding" so I answered her plainly as to the two people I chose not to talk to. I didn't know her question was "loaded." She wanted to know why I wasn't talking to them, as if this were a behavior that needed to be examined and fixed. I remember leaving her house in a daze, feeling sifted, analyzed and devalued. It was pretty OUCH even though she insisted nothing I did was "Wrong" and that "Wrongness didn't exist".
I realized only after I left my weakness was in my wanting to "fix" her. If only I could accept that a trip to her house means a trip down memory lane. Painful memories of childhood needed to be brought out and examined. So convinced is she that the inner child knows everything that the inner grownup has been flung from the room. She's not wrong in being provocative. She's doing the best she can to help me. I am the one who can move away from outside intervention. I am the one who is in control. When I accept others as they are, everything is fine.