Thursday, August 26, 2010

A glimpse of wisdom

Yesterday I traveled into Seattle for my weekly coaching triad.  The three of us -- two older women and a 30-something man -- are in a coaching class together, and take turns coaching each other.  Each week one person coaches, one person is the client, and one person observes.  The coaching session lasts 30 to 45 minutes, and then all three share notes on what seemed to work and what didn't.

What's exciting about all this -- aside from the fact that coaching is fun -- is seeing how much improvement there is from one session to the next.  Last night I got to be the observer, which meant I got to see wisdom operating beautifully in both client and coach.  The coach was doing a terrific job of staying in the moment -- a critical aspect of coaching -- and asking some really good questions.  And the client -- encouraged by the coach -- was showing some extraordinary wisdom in examining behavior patterns that were emerging.

My reading in A Path with Heart this morning encourages us to address "the war within" -- all the battles we fight within ourselves in an effort to deny or avoid the various difficulties we fact.  Watching that coaching session gave me a glimpse of a battle I didn't even know I was still fighting.  The client, exhausted after a difficult week of coping with interpersonal issues among friends, was able to see that the exhaustion emerged primarily from a deep-seated desire for a certain sort of personal image: in wanting to look wise, and calm; in wanting to appear helpful and centered, they had insisted on carrying the whole burden of solving the problem on their own shoulders.  And in the process of doing that, they had managed not only to exhaust themselves but also to alienate others who might have shared the burden.

Fortunately the others were able to speak up, new friendships were forged, and new insights emerged.  But I'm wondering -- having heard from many fellow caregiver types how tiring they find their work, and how frustrated they get when surrounded by needy people (who's going to take care of ME?) -- how often we may be the ones responsible for digging that particular hole, precisely because we need to be needed, we want to cultivate that image, to be known as the one who solves the problems.

Back in the day, we used to call that the Messiah Complex, referring to folks who get caught up wanting to save the world.  I had kind of hoped my days of struggling with that were over, but watching last night I see there are still remnants there -- and it's not pretty.  So -- oh goody -- here's another battle waiting to be waged in the war within: how can we let go of our need to be 'the fixer' and accept that it's enough to do what we can and share the burden?  How can we begin -- again -- to remember that sharing the burden is a gift to those around us?  And how can we stay aware enough of ourselves and our motives to notice when what drives our generous behaviors is not genuine compassion but a need to cultivate certain appearances?

It's a challenge, to be sure -- but it's all good.

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