Recently I've been finding myself lost for words...a lot. I constantly feel like hell because I desperately want to be the one to have all the answers, to be able to fix people who are hurting. This is despite knowing that you can't just fix people and that nobody has all the answers.
So I'm having to practice listening to understand rather than to respond. I'm having to try to step back just far enough that people can find their own answers without feeling abandoned.
Then a couple of things happened that brought the message home. It really is important that unless someone is actually asking for answers, we listen simply to understand what they're going through.
The basis of what happened is I posted in a Facebook group on a couple of occasions about something deeply personal that's been troubling me, and people were quick to tell me their opinions or tell me what I ought to do without giving me the opportunity to say "whoa! I'm just offloading some emotion because if I don't I'll explode, I don't need a lecture right now!"
In other words, people were very quick to judge and to tell me what they thought of me.
And of course, it was pointed out that a lot of what I try to do is instill enough confidence in people to do what's best for them and their mental health. I was asked why I wasn't doing what I would tell other people to do if they were in my position.
The thing is...I wouldn't tell anyone what they should do, other than telling them to talk to people a little closer to home. Because in this situation, there are an awful lot of complexities that can't be conveyed via text. Also, to tell someone what they should do would be to imply that I know more about what's best for them than they do. It would be to say that I know more about their mind than they do.
And after 6.5 years of living with anxiety and depression, I don't think there's anyone out there who could possibly understand what's going on in my head better than I do. Except maybe a therapist. I've had a lot of practice when it comes to working out what I can handle, and sure, I'm still learning every day, but I'm still the person in the best position to decide what's best for me right now.
I'm going to conclude by asking that you join me in practicing listening with a view to understanding rather than responding. It's so much more helpful to hear people out and offer them a hug than to make them withdraw by telling them they're living their life wrong.