A lot has been said these days about reaching out to others and helping people who are facing problems in life. Many people have spoken about how they are always available to those in distress and are willing to listen.

It has really been heartening to see how easily and willingly people are ready to help those with problems. It is the need of the hour that we acknowledge the need for emotional and social support.

Though it is a noble thought, being a support system for someone, it is not as easy as it seems. Truth be told, all of us carry an emotional burden of our own. Be it our day to day struggles or worries, we deal with stress every day. This requires a lot of mental energy, which tires us out as much as any physical activity.

We are not superheroes in disguise and nor do we possess super powers. Helping someone is wonderful but it needs to be done in the right capacity and without causing the helper any harm. The bravest of the knight requires armour before he sets out. Before we set out to help someone we probably need to have a look at our emotional armour too.

A knight’s armour has a strong helmet: Listening to someone’s problems can take up a lot of our mental capacity. When someone starts talking about their issues, chances are that you will hear things that are unpleasant and disturbing. They may touch upon our own fears and worries. They may even trigger off thought patterns in us that can cause us to feel anxious and stressed. The simplest example of this is when a person is talking about financial fears in an economic slowdown. The reality is as true for us as it is for someone else. It might start to make us feel anxious about a situation which we were previously able to put on the back burner. It can make us over think to an extent that we spiral out of our control. We need armour which allows us to look at someone else’s issues as theirs and not our own. Yes, a large part of empathic listening involves wearing another man’s shoes but it also requires you to remember that you have a different set of shoes to go back to. We need a clear head space to know this difference.

A knight’s armour has strong shoulder plates: Before we set out to offer our shoulder to someone to lean on, we need to check the burden our shoulders carry. Now imagine yourself on a trek uphill. You are carrying a heavy load on your shoulders which has your belongings. The hill is steep and you require every bit of energy and focus to maneuver through the path, overcome obstacles and challenges, to reach the summit. Along the way you meet a fellow traveler who is obviously struggling with his own load and is in need of help. You want to reach out and help but that means you need to carry an extra bit of load to your already existing one. If you attempt to carry more than your capacity neither you nor the person you are trying to help will be able to move forward. More likely than not you might just drag both further down. If you are emotionally burdened, the smart thing to do is to ask the person to seek help with someone else.

A knight’s breastplate is the strongest because it protects the heart: Seeing a person sad or upset has a way of tugging our heart. This is what makes us want to help another person but we need to remember our breast plate. Getting too emotionally involved with someone else’s issues can make us vulnerable. We can often start feeling their burden as our own and feel low or anxious. Sometimes we get drawn into someone else’s life so much that we are not able to disentangle ourselves from their problems. We start identifying ourselves in their situation and feeling the way they do. This is neither helpful to them nor to us. The best way to help someone is to listen from a third person’s point of view without getting emotionally drawn into their stories. This way we are in a better position to offer them a fresh perspective and also protect our own heart.

A knight’s glove helps a firm grip: While helping someone we need a firm grip on our well being, whether physical or emotional. You can’t extend a helping hand when you don’t have a firm enough grip. Otherwise the person may fall or may take you down along too. What we need to remember is that we are offering a helping hand and not taking the onus of solving their problems for them. We have to add to their strength and not fight their battles. If we start fighting the battles of all those we are trying to help, where will have the strength to fight our own. The helping hand does not need to take the entire weight of the other person.

A knight’s boots helps him stand firm even on dangerous grounds: Sometimes a person in distress can become unreasonable. There are times that they may get angry or turn hostile towards the person trying to help them. They may even blame the helper for not doing enough or even causing more problems. These are grounds we need to tread carefully. It is of no use blaming the other person because he or she is obviously upset but more importantly it is no use blaming oneself. Often the person trying to help blames himself or feels guilty about not doing enough. This is more so when the other person’s situation worsens. At this point it is important to know that we did the best that we could and we all have grounds we can not maneuver on.

All armours have chinks and a wise knight knows them all: Like no armour is fool proof, we all have our own limitations. Whether it is our own emotional burden or lack of knowledge about dealing with the situation, we need to be aware of our own chinks. There is no individual who can be emotionally available for someone all the time, not even a trained mental health professional. Moreover, there are times when the emotional burden of another person is completely out of your league. It is then wise to let an expert or an experienced person take over rather than offering help which may not be enough.

Help like charity begins at home. Only those who have helped themselves know what it takes to help someone else

We don’t know what battles rage within a person, be kind, especially to yourself……

 

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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