Encouraging Recovery When People are Tired and Frustrated
I find it hard some days to know how to encourage people who are tired and have been thinking about their drinking or drug use or other harmful behaviors for a long time, or have had ups and downs, or even have been doing well, but have been hit hard with adversity and are just not seeing the results of their efforts, or maybe even the point.
It is such a terrible feeling, not to be able to see the way forward. It can be accompanied by all kinds of other feelings of anxiety and depression, with an emphasis on hopeless and helpless. It feels that the only thing we care about at all is our substance or behavior of choice at that point. To lose ourselves. Escape. Oblivion. It’s such a terrible place to be. I totally get that. I remember it.
Empathy vs. Compassion
My empathy is deep, yet I know I don’t always present that way. I try not to get lost in my feelings of empathy, because then I can’t see or communicate options for action. I do try to get people to see that it is not the end of the world, and to encourage them to see at least a tiny bit of light.
I try not to dwell on the negative too long with people, mostly for their sake, but also for my own sense of self-preservation from frustrations and sadnesses that are beyond my ability to solve. I think that on the other end, that can sometimes feel like I don’t care or I don’t have sympathy and can be frustrating for the other person.
I feel sometimes that this is annoying, and that I’m not always paying deference to their pain, but for me, when I believed I had to fully explore and experience my pain, it turned into a self-feeding miasma of depression. I personally have found I had to fight that. It’s not healthy for me. It’s so easy for me to feed my doubts and apathy and fears and hesitations.
I was reading recently the difference between empathy and compassion, and I think that’s what I am aiming for -- coming out on the compassion side. If I empathize so much as to take on the actual pain of the other person, I’m not really doing either of us a service. It doesn’t actually lessen their burden, and it causes me anguish too.