Number 32 in a Series
Empowerment is facilitated when confidants remain objective, walking the fine line of being both neutral and supportive.
Confiding my feelings and struggles, whether with a professional therapist, family member or friend, entrusts that person with a sacred part of myself. Therefore learning how to evaluate the response I receive is crucial. The bottom line for such knowing is whether or not the help is empowering and moving me toward becoming my own hero.
Empowerment is promoted by responses that help me embrace all of myself. When confidants take sides in a dispute, judge my behavior, have an agenda for how I should behave or feel, or tell me what to do, they are trying to change me. Communicating that I need to change is not accepting me as I am. It reinforces my tendency to judge and distrust myself and is disrespectful and disempowering.
Looking to others to tell me what to do can be habit-forming. Empowerment is facilitated when confidants do not participate in any attempts to get them to take responsibility for me. Their response to wanting them to solve my problem might be as one confidant responded when I asked, “What do you think I should do?”
He just empathetically said, “I wish I could give you some simple ideas that would make your pain immediately disappear, but I can’t. I take back what I just said. Even if I could wave a magic wand I wouldn’t. I don’t believe advice is what you need. I want to help you discover how to trust your inner knowing.”
When I ask confidant’s to tell me what is best for me, they help me understand why looking to others for answers is demeaning, and help me uncover the beliefs that drive that tendency. Should they succumb to the temptation of telling me what to do (and since they are human they probably will at times), when they realize what they have done they, with humility, discuss what they did and its consequences? At times, it may be appropriate for a confidant to make suggestions or be a teacher, but this must be engaged in very judiciously.
Confidants may dazzle me with their ability to interpret dreams, analyze situations, give solutions, theorize about why I’m feeling or thinking as I am, or the childhood that created my thoughts and feelings. This may be impressive but it is of little, if any, value in helping me embrace and believe in myself. Rather than helping me move out of dependency and into self-trust, it encourages dependency on them for analysis and answers.
Labeling behavior frustrates empowerment because labels put me into boxes of right and wrong behavior. They place me into neat, psychological categories such as, neurotic, bi-polar, co-dependent, obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic, dependent, or addictive.
Saying “You are ([fill in the blank],” is like being branded with a universal condemnation. Applying a label does not leave me feeling understood, respected or knowing that there are very important reasons for my behavior, and is not helpful in overcoming those reasons.
Empowerment is facilitated when confidant’s remain objective, walking the fine line of being both neutral and supportive. They do not jump into my stories and believe them either to be true or not true. They know that stories are true from my perspective, but that doesn’t mean they actually happened or happened in the way I am relating them.
To believe a story that is not true supports delusional thinking, being a victim and blaming others. For example, should a repressed memory surface, confidant’s can support my reality as reported without either believing or disbelieving it.
It is not important to determine whether an event actually happened. Empowerment is facilitated by helping me understand my reality, affirm the very good reasons I have for creating it, understand both the negative and positive consequences that are attached to every decision, and give support should I decide to confront whatever demons are keeping me locked in.
Empowerment is facilitated by the belief that we all struggle and strive toward being more consistent in our loving. This knowledge is not communicated when confidant’s remain removed and aloof. It is communicated through their willingness to be transparent and communicate their own humanness.
Confidant’s do this by sharing times when they feel stuck and unsure, or when their heart closes, and what they feel and do when they experience those conditions. It is an attitude that communicates that I am not alone or hopeless and that no one is loving all the time.
Empowerment results from many things but the most powerful and effective tool of a confident is simply listening with empathy. Simple does not mean easily done. It requires suppressing all the deeply ingrained tendencies listed above.
Empathic listening requires listening for the feelings underneath what I’m saying and reflecting those feelings back to me. This helps me go deeper into my feelings. Gaining clarity about my deeper feelings and needs is how I discover my own answers. Learning to trust more in myself and becoming less dependent on others is real empowerment.
The word “therapy” comes from the ancient Greek word that means “Comrades in a common struggle.” “Getting with me” is how that idea is communicated and how I am best moved toward becoming my own hero.
For Your Journey
- Using the above criteria evaluate the help you are being given. Is your confidant taking sides, judging feelings and behavior, telling you what to do, labeling and analyzing your behavior, jumping into your story and believing that it is exactly as you are telling it.
- Using the above criteria evaluate yourself as a helper. How often do you take sides, judge feelings, and behavior, tell other’s what to do, label and analyze behavior, believe that past events are exactly as another is relating them?
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”
Photo: Flickr/Cesar Vargas