Helping others with a compassionate heart is such a gift. But, as a caregiver you can also become frustrated and feel helpless. Karen Kissel Wegela, from mindful.org writes a helpful article. The example in this article can help us understand mindful compassion.
Stan has been having a particularly difficult time with his health, and he is telling me about a seemingly endless round of visits to doctors. Some recommend that he have surgery to correct a situation with his leg; others recommend physical therapy and various medications. He is on leave from work because of another injury and suffers from a chronic disease that requires daily attention.
Stan feels despairing and helpless. He is afraid that he will lose his ability to work and won’t be able to support himself. Maybe he will even end up on the street without a home.
As I listen, I notice that Stan is jumping to conclusions. He hasn’t asked what seem to me the right questions, and he doesn’t really know what his prognosis is. Why is he so worried about losing the ability to work when no one has told him that his injuries will lead to disability? Why doesn’t he ask the doctors more questions? I grow impatient. I want to offer advice.
I start to make tentative suggestions. Has he tried talking to his doctor about his prognosis? Has he explored other avenues?
Stan stops briefly and looks right at me. Then he continues to describe how hopeless it all is and how untrustworthy doctors are.
This sort of interplay goes on for quite a while: Stan continues complaining and predicting a doom-filled future; I make more and more suggestions and offer increasingly explicit advice.
Finally Stan explodes in anger. “This is not helpful! I am feeling so frustrated!”
Whoops! In a flash, I remember an earlier session with Stan, in which he was telling me a number of stories about himself. Despite an inclination to try to bring our conversation back to the present, I had simply listened. I had offered simple feedback: “It sounds like these stories are your treasures.”
“Yes,” Stan had replied with delight and relief. “You get it! That’s exactly it.” Stan had gone on to report how infrequently he felt truly heard and received just as he was.
Now I recalled how important it was to him to simply feel received. I began just to listen—listen and welcome whatever he brought up right now.
Read the rest of this article at mindful.org