I’ve spoken of “sleepers” “snakes” and “smiling monsters.” Came up with another one today: “drowning swimmers.”
Most of us are more protective of others than we are of ourselves. This can lead us to making ourselves vulnerable to predators or drowning swimmers.
Remember the Five Fold path: step number one is: Love yourself.
First, get your feet on solid ground. This is like the stewardess telling passengers that in case of cabin pressure failure PUT YOUR MASK ON FIRST.
Second, love another person. Create your primary relationship with someone whose feet are on ground as solid as yours, even if the territory is distributed a little differently. Back to the swimming metaphor:
See people thrashing in the ocean? Be a lighthouse. Call to them. Or throw them a life preserver. But unless you are strong enough a swimmer to be a lifeguard, DON’T get out in the water and let their fear and thrashing pull you down.
I remember Swiftdeer telling me once that helping other people is a form of self-pity. I think he meant many things: it is seeing ourselves in them (a good thing, generally) but it is also avoiding doing the work WE need to do to change. Focusing on giving advice to others we aren’t capable of taking ourselves. Consider: how much easier is it to say: “go and run five miles” than is is to actually run them? Immeasurably.
But you have expertise to share, you say? Well…lead by example. What if you re-defined “knowing how to run five miles” to include not just the location of the track, the equipment you need, the basic biomechanics of the movement…but the emotional and conceptual aspects of motivation, the clarity of values that makes it possible to actually run? What if you said that if you aren’t actually doing something, you don’t know how to do it? I know, I know, that’s harsh. And not always accurate (because I’m not doing something at the moment doesn’t mean I can’t do it tomorrow, and wasn’t doing it yesterday.) But what if?
That was a bit of a digression. The point being that we can use “rescuing” as a means of trying to heal ourselves, or to distract us from the work we need to do, or even to sabotage that work if it becomes threatening to the ego (its nice to have an excuse for failure if you really don’t believe you can succeed. Or…its nice to have a reason to fail if you are afraid of success)
So. Your primary relationship should be with the healthiest person your heart can attract and hold. Someone who can walk at your side, not someone you are dragging along behind you. If you want to help others, FIRST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, AND YOUR FAMILY. There will never be a shortage of broken people begging for your help. NEVER. Any more than you’ll run out of internet trolls. They will use you up and wear you out. Be careful.