Posted in Caregiving

Don’t Do It…It’s a Trap

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

I get a lot of messages from caregivers that they are being blamed for opinions they gave to the person in their life who’s ill.  Why wouldn’t you give someone an opinion when you were asked for it?  The truth is you really weren’t asked for your opinion; you were asked to step on a landmine.

You may be chucking at that last statement, but it’s true.  How many times have you asked someone a question where you already knew the answer?  How many times were you unsure of yourself making a decision but you believed a certain selection to be the right one but you ask another’s advice on the matter?  It happens all the time, the only trouble is that when you’re in a caregiving role the stakes are a bit higher, the emotions a bit volatile, and the tension in the relationship often the greatest.

Is there a way to avoid stepping on the landmine and blowing up?  Of course there is and the easy response would be not to give your advice, opinion, or decision…we know that’s not going to happen.  The true way to avoid the landmine and make the process more collaborative is to partake in the journey.  (I heard a saying once, “I’ll go to hell with you, not for you.”) 

What would partaking in the journey look like?  It means holding back your advice and judgment and doing some exploration.  I had a very dear friend call me last night with some tough questions about end-of-life care and grieving.  I can’t say what’s definitively right for him because I don’t have his personal mythology, history, and personal values.  I did join him on his journey by first sending him on the journey.  Explaining that there is no “right” or “wrong”  but that the decision has to come out of contemplation, evaluation, and soul-searching.

The easiest way to help the loved one you’re caring for answer a question is to ask them questions.  Please make the questions open-ended, no “yes” or “no” questions allowed, this is an exploratory process.  At first it may feel rude answering a question with a question, but we all have to go on our own pilgrimage and if we don’t then all other possibilities in life get eliminated because we begin going to others for the answer to all our questions.

You’ll hear Buddhists discuss “living in the question”.  I’ve found not only as a therapist, but in my own life when I can have one question lead me to another question I go further, deeper, and in the end feel a greater sense of resolution about any and every issue.

If you need more information about taking another on a journey write your question in the comments (because we all have questions…Right?) or email me at greg@survivingstrong.com

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