It’s hard to ask for what I need
Of course! It’s stomach churning hard. It goes against every line of coding in your programming. Helper, rescuer, person who has it all up together and who’s purpose is to be there for others.
How can I let people see that I really haven’t got a handle on my own life?
How can I advise and support others when they see that I really haven’t got this?
I don’t want sympathy; it makes me weaker
Your primary identity is threatened, you feel diminished.
This is a favourite quote of mine from Pema Chodron,
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.
Darkness can be a triggering concept, particularly for those working in caring professions. We are supposed to be the light, cheery sunshine in other peoples’ lives, right? I’m not disputing this important aspect to the unique brand of care that offer, but I think we can be even more, both for our patients and for each other.
I believe that for a community to be truly resilient, there needs to be a level of acceptance that on some days you’ll be a helper, and sometimes you’ll need help. And therefore, you’ll need to ask for that help. Without this, there are only victims and rescuers, at worst just another power dynamic.
For me, darkness is not the realm of sadness and negativity, although these things may be part of the darkness. It’s the place where the more subtle and beautifully complex parts of our humanity lie. It’s the place where we find our hopes, our fears, our needs, and desires.
Every time we choose to speak, even though it’s hard, uncomfortable, or awkward, we move forward. Sometimes that means speaking about what we need.
That fear, and awkwardness is real. Where do you even start to ask for what you need?
In coaching, there’s a template for these conversations,
This is what’s going on for me
This is what I need
(And, to settle the nerves of a serial carer)
What do you need to help me get what I need?
It’s a helpful formula, but a bit dry. I have permission to share this real-life example from a clinician. It relates to a period around the end of the 3rd lockdown.
To a partner or spouse,
I am not functioning well, I’ve been to the GP. Her opinion is that there is nothing inherently wrong with my mental facility, but I’ve been at this [saving a business, home schooling, dealing with long covid] for too long. My mind is working in my defence, saying ‘no more.’
I need a break; I need time to rest and to process this.
What do you need in place for our family, over the next month, so that I can take the time that I need?
How does this sound? Is there a version of this conversation you could see yourself having? Is there something you need to ask for in your life? We go into these caring professions wanting to help, wanting to create spaces where others can express and process pain.
Can we give ourselves the same permission?
Let me know what you think. If you would like some coaching support with identifying and asking for what you need, book a call with me.
Have a lovely day