This past year started with me jumping back into school and falling madly in love with psychology and writing all over again. I went in with a lot of assumptions about what classes and topics I would love most.
They were great, don’t get me wrong. But they did not “light a fire in my belly” so to speak.
The fire that did rise was not at all what I expected.
During this time, I took the blandly titled and not so sexy “Foundations of Helping.” Not a class I was looking forward to; I knew what helping was.
As I read chapter after chapter of my textbook, paired with study after study about helping and the process of creating change, I was simultaneously going through my very own change process.
The ONLY lesson in Helping.
I struggle to watch Humane Society ads, Disney and Pixar movies, and those Superbowl commercials with the dogs and horses.
I also hate going to the movies.
Not because I don’t love movies, good stories, or buy into the messages.
Because I HATE that someone else’s emotions can bring me to tears in less than a second.
I’m a feeler.
I have always struggled to separate my emotions from those of others. I take your sadness and carry it around for days like a backpack filled with bricks I don’t want or need.
How in the hell was I going to listen to the challenges and traumas of those who would eventually sit in my chair and not lose my mind?
I was terrified. I was starting to stop, find stillness and sit with my emotions more regularly. It was uncomfortable. I kind of hated it.
I felt the way I used to when I was ten, back before I learned that feeling too much was weak and dangerous.
The more I felt, the more I felt.
It was exhausting.
After weeks of just letting it all go, I started to notice something.
Not all of those emotions felt like they were mine. I began removing the backpacks I had been wearing for years and started to see names and labels attached to them.
Mom. Dad. Teacher. Brother. Coach. Husband.
I had been carrying the expectations, emotions, and assumptions of SO MANY other people for so damn long I couldn’t tell the difference between what was mine and what was not.
It felt like a revolution in my heart.
With each day that passed and each feeling that arose, I began to make it a practice to stop, find stillness, and look for a label.
Whose is this?
Is it mine?
I was taking on the emotions of others because I assumed others could not handle them. I thought that I needed to be strong and carry that backpack for them because they could not.
Being a helper is NOT about fixing, removing, taking away, taking care of, or making things easier for others. It’s not taking the backpack off of another person and wearing it for them.
It’s about acknowledging that heavy-ass backpack they are wearing, giving them a safe space to open it up, unpack it, and put it back on, realizing their own bravery and strength.
It’s ok to empathize and be affected by others, but I had taken that to the extreme. I was stealing backpacks left and right. I did not know what helping was.
I’m leaving a lot of assumptions, expectations and beliefs behind in 2020. I’m ready to let go of the resistance and feel my way through a new year.
Here’s to reading labels and honouring the strength of others in 2021.