A Passion for Helping Others? Why We Wait.
Who Doesn’t Want a Better World?
The struggle between feelings of empathy, and actual boots-on-the-ground service to a better world is real for many of us. We long to make a difference. But hesitate to take actionable steps. Especially when the voice coming through our journals sounds something like this.
I remember when it was easy to be a good-deed-doer. Decades spent in tights and cape. Hero of family, God, and country.
I still have burn marks.
And I’m wary of going back into the flames.
Empathic burnout. A common response arising from super sensitive fix-the-world kind of people. Kindhearted and generous, no doubt. But often unaware of the self-destructive behaviors tagged by Tone and Tully as risky strength. And noted by Academy of Science researchers as pathological altruism. Ouch.
Risk Factors for the Feelers and Fixers of the World
Personal distress or guilt in response to others’ pain or unhappiness.
Anxiety and depression
Diminished ability to make decisions in their own best interest
Emotional avoidance, which leads to physical exhaustion.
Breakdown of personal identity and social skills.
The risk of constant do-gooding is cunning. Destructive behaviors may falsely advertise themselves as amiability, prosocial activism, or family heroics. An extreme other-facing outlook on the world. Without ever looking in.
Until the crash.
That moment when benign benefactors are forced out of service. Dry docked…and tethered. By a very small rope. Leaning into the wind with strained uncertainty.
What cockeyed master of providence would allow so much pain into the life of someone so earnest?
Many enter into personal caves at this point. No worries. Hibernation is a natural season. With a beginning. And an end.
Searching for Roots
Do-gooders flinch mightily at placing blame on others. But taking a moment to search out the roots of misguided empathy can be a critical turning point.
The easiest target? Parents, of course. Why…even science tells us that! What happens in childhood sticks with us for life.
Parental Roots of Avoidance and Hypersensitivity
Parental habits of failing to facilitate emotional regulation.
Insensitivity to children’s emotional cues.
And if you somehow manage to escape childhood unscathed, you can always pick up emotional disfunction as an adult. The hard way…PTSD.
Blame is Just a Stage
%&^?^(*@#! I KNEW MY PARENTS SCREWED ME UP!
Every generation, whether spawning children, relationships, or thoughts….makes choices that become fodder for personal evolution at some later date. Visible or invisible wounds that flare when painful life transitions, or deep existential wonder, spark a closer look. At life.
You Will Know When It’s Time to Emerge From the Cave
Hibernation. Darkness and slumber. Season of avoidance.
But ALWAYS a gateway to spring. And new beginnings.
My own personal spring came when I acknowledged a new desire to explore creativity. A follow up to a season of deep dark dives into the cave of written introspection. Shifting from words that lifted and gifted me with a new outlook on life… to an entirely new way of connecting with the world.
More colorful. More true. Without empathic self sacrifice.
Change Is a Pretty Big Deal
I didn’t know it at the time, but the choice to smear acrylic paint into childlike abstractions would lead to the creation of a colorful emotional balancing process. AND the repair of my stuck-volunteer gear.
Now, instead of avoiding compassionate causes…or guilting myself into doing too much…I rely on spontaneous creative reflection to modulate my hypersensitivity.
Leaving me free to come out of my cave without fear.
I think immediately of the starfish story. Start small. It matters.
My small steps always begin with Creative Disruption, a personal daily practice of visual and written reflection.
To see the workings of this colorfully reformed Feeler and Fixer, scroll down.
CREATIVE DISRUPTION IN ACTION
WHAT COLOR(S) AND MOVEMENT REPRESENT THE RAW EMOTION OF TODAY’S INQUIRY?
WRITE, PAINT, OR COLLAGE RELATED BACKSTORIES. NO FILTERS…NO FIXING.
LAYER 3- FORM
EXPLORE IMAGES, SHAPES, OR MARKS THAT BEGIN TO MOVE STUCK ENERGY.
I suddenly know. If I can only pick up one starfish, I have to find the one shaped like my heart.
My friend, the otter appears. A reminder of my soul’s communion with the whiskered, winged, and finned and creatures of Monterey Bay. Friends. Who ask nothing more than gentle care for this fading spot called Earth.
DISRUPT OLD WAYS OF THINKING. VISUALIZE NEW.
As long as I have my written and visual journals, I have no fear of over-extending my passion for helping others. And no guilt if I wait.
Because life is full of ordinary daily opportunities to make a difference. And even the simple process of seeing the world with the wonder of a paint smeared child can add a little extra glow to those around you.
At the close of every CREATIVE DISRUPTION session, I take time to reflect upon three final thoughts. I invite you to join me. Knowing that we are always free to further evolve, release, or let rest…today’s thoughts.
How do I prefer to feel?
Instead of worrying about my ability to serve others….
What wisdom can I now see?
A balanced emotional life helps me serve the world more joyfully and authentically. The one field that most touches my heart is…
Choose one small action forward.
One small step forward toward serving the world in LOVE, is to…
Replaces feelings of isolation with connection to community
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.