We seldom notice our contribution, till the closing chapter.

theend

We all have a platform to contribute, in each of our lives, in a way that is uniquely us. This platform can be in our work, family, relationships or community. Amidst the hustle and bustle of our lives, we sometimes do forget to realise how we are needed in the larger picture, that our presence is holding a structure in place. In any role or relationship, we are needed, and we influence the environment around us.

Recently, I reflected on the platform of my professional work, knowing that I am leaving this working community, I realised how much I have forgotten along the way. I worked too hard, and I did not acknowledge the little successes I have accumulated along the way. Until the last week of my work, when my clients and ex-clients came back and said their thanks to me. I realised all these little successes, when added up, were quite phenomenal.

As we said our farewell, some of them have found independence from their pain, and they no longer need me. They found their strength, to be a more assertive person, to be more aware of their pain, to know that they have control over their circumstances, to have grown and did not regressed. I am very happy for them. While others still need my help in freeing their pain, I believe they could do it eventually. But there is only a sense of pity that our work cannot be continued. We have to say our goodbyes.

It is at this closing chapter, I understood the reach and importance of my work. I think it is a little too late.

We do not have to wait till the closing chapter, to recognise our own work.

Often, I absentmindedly overlook the work I should give credit to. I think it will be beneficial for us to personally recognise and acknowledge to ourselves the work that we put through our platforms. I believe it is a strong motivator to our morale. To know that every day we are adding value to the lives of others, to empower the structure around us, is a powerful thought. To know that we are an asset of something bigger, is a recognition that we are needed in the community. The work we do matter, and we as people of the community matter.

This closure has to happen, for me to move to something bigger.

In hindsight, albeit I have seen my work manifesting into a ripple effect of positive outcomes in reality, I need a bigger space to grow. I believe that life consists of a series of milestones, each of which gives us the learnings and experience, to make us stronger to move closer to who we want to be. We have to actively progress and utilise our acquired strengths. The space around us has to evolve as we evolve, may it be a spontaneous evolution or we change the environment to meet our needs. I am extremely grateful to this chapter of my life because I have developed tremendously in these 5 years. But it has come to a point where only a full closure can set me on a wider path to fully expand my abilities. The end of one chapter, is also the start of another.

Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.

What to do with a Friend in Need? Hold the Space, then Allow what Comes.

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When we see people in need of help, we will want to help them. That’s natural, we have compassion built into us as social beings. But when we see people in need, especially when they start talking to us, what we think as helpful may not be helpful to them. The way we should deal with their upset is very different from the way we deal with our upset internally. For instance, when we experience trouble, we will try to find a way out, find solutions to match the problems. When it comes to other people’s issues, they first want to be understood, heard and seen, before any other process happen; rather than be problem-solved. I will detail a 2-step process to begin the helping relationship with a troubled friend.

Step One: Hold the Space

Be present, curious, understanding and compassionate. This is a skill we get drilled on repetitively in our training as therapists, counsellors or life coaches. We learn to hold the space for the other person to unfold. Think of the last time you were really interested in getting to know someone because that person intrigues you. You already know how to do this. These are some of the many strategies that we professionals use:

  1. Reflect the meaning – reflect the essence of what is being communicated as we experience the other person fully.
  2. Communicate empathy – let the other person know that we can relate to what he feels, because somehow we have encountered such feelings before. Contexts can be different, but feelings are universal.
  3. Be curious, don’t judge – ask questions to gather more about this issue and let the person tell the story.
  4. Show up and be real – be yourself skillfully, and disclose what you truly feel about the situation, but not to give any advice or judgments.

Through these strategies, the other person would know that we are genuinely concerned, and we understood them. And sometimes, this is all they need from us, just for one other person in this world to know that they are struggling – an immense therapeutic outlet.

Step Two: Let them Decide where to go from here

After holding the space for the other person, for more complex issues, the other person may need and will be receptive to a more involved conversation. Generally, these are the 3 ways the conversation could turn out:

  1. “I can handle it eventually” problems: For these problems, the other person just needs someone to talk to. If we hold the space well, that will clarify the person’s thoughts and give comfort to the person. We have done our helping role here. No advice needed, therapy done.
  2. “I’m lost, confused and torn” problems: In this context, the other person is probably torn between options or even have no idea how to move forward. But the problem is potentially manageable. In this context, advice may expected from us, before which we should always ask for permission to advice. Then, give your opinions and thoughts, some of which may be taken, others may not. Then disengage, while holding the space all the time.
  3. “This is totally hopeless” problems: Sometimes, people encounter problems that are too large to handle, and they give up hope. This is when people start showing self-defeating thoughts. Sometimes, we cannot see a way out for them too. In these situations, we help by shining positive light of hope, and trust that they have the internal resources to cope through. Highlight the good things they have been doing well in moving this problem and ask them what could they possibly explore from here (extracted from solution-focused therapy). Do positive reframe and highlight what positive outcomes they can perceive at this point, flip the problem to an asset (extracted from neurolinguistic programming).

Of course, there are a range of other problem types, which needs different strategies and some can be very complex to explain. Most importantly, bear in mind that in many conversations, if we are highly skillful in holding the space for the other, we can already see a shift in other person. That could be all they ask for.

Original writings by The Realist, inspired by encounters in professional work in life coaching, physical therapy and PhD research.