“Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem.” ~ Jonathan Mead
I don’t think I’m alone in having someone in my life whom I wish I could change. Someone I see struggling, who ignores or resents any lifesavers I send their way. I can clearly see how this person contributes to their own struggles, but they remain totally unaware of it. Sometimes, I want to shake some sense into this person; I think, “If only they would get their life together…”
For many of us, this person is a relative: a sister, brother, parent, or child. For others, it’s a close friend or coworker. A lot of times, it’s someone we want in our lives, even if it’s painful to keep them there. No matter who it is, it certainly isn’t easy to see someone you care about struggle.
Being in the presence of another’s pain used to provoke a deeply emotional response from me. And I know others feel the same. Sympathy and the desire to help someone in distress are naturally instinctual responses.
According to Darwin, humans and animals alike take comfort in one another’s company, protecting one another and defending each other against threats.
I get that. It makes total sense to me. I would have gone to the ends of the earth to see the people I care about happy. I did just about anything to try and change them; I read books and articles, reaching out for experts’ advice on how I could get them to see the light. In fact, I became one of those “experts” myself, and if I’m honest with myself, it’s because I was looking for a way to help the ones I love.
You see, I didn’t just have one person in my life who was struggling. At one point, it seemed like the majority of my family members were having a tough time. That led me to feel desperate and helpless, unable to live my own life while sensing their pain.
I always hung on to the hope that the people in my life would somehow change. That something I had overlooked would prove to be the magic bullet to help them live a good and fulfilling life.
I kept buying more books, reading more articles, and encouraging them to go to therapy, whether they wanted to or not. I reasoned, pleaded, led interventions. Dreamed of my ideal relationships with them, imagined them happy and full of life. Yearned for their smiles and enthusiasm for life. Believed that I couldn’t be happy until they were.
I made it my life mission to change others, becoming a therapist to help make changes in…