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Taking Responsibility For Other People's Problems


When our loved ones suffer, it’s hard not to get swept up in their pain. We want so desperately to take away their pain and see them happy. We begin to get involved in their issues and try to find ways to resolve their problem. We easily rationalize to ourselves that we are kind and good people and want to help and be supportive. However, being supportive does not mean we have to fix their problem. You can be supportive by merely listening and not giving opinions or judging. Just be there and listen.

When the pain affects one of your loved ones, it is often an automatic trigger to jump in and rescue. What we are actually doing is relieving ourselves from anxiety. Once I jump in and help you, I no longer feel the anxiety. I believe that I am helping you; however, I am also helping myself. For example, let’s say your 18-year-old is afraid to drive on the highway and has to be at an interview by 9 a.m. You witness your child stressing and anxious. You want to relieve them of their pain. However, you are also concerned about their ability to get to their destination safely and so you immediately react and offer to drive them. You are therefore relieving your own anxiety and not allowing them to find their own way, to experience what they need in order to overcome their fear. It is important to recognize your anxiety and learn to sit with it instead of acting on it. This is easier said than done and requires practice.

When we carry someone else’s pain, we have now added more onto our plate. We not only have our own pain, but theirs as well. We believe we are helping; however, we are not. When we are caring for others, we may tend to take on their energy. Even when we are not anxious ourselves, we may feel our heart quicken, our breathing become shallow, and our own anxiety begin to rise. It is important to stay grounded and set healthy boundaries and be able to distinguish what is theirs and what is yours.

Recognize that you are only responsible for yourself. We cannot control other people and we cannot take away other people’s suffering. Unfortunately, they need to experience that for themselves. Find ways you can care for yourself so that you can be available as a support. A good question to ask yourself is “am I doing something for them that they can and should do for themselves?” If the answer is yes, redirect your focus and know that you are not helping in this situation, only enabling.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed, compassionate professionals. Call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us on Facebook.

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