7 Steps to Help Someone in Emotional Pain Without Depleting Your Energy
Settle Deep. Ground Down. Open up.
The discomfort of watching someone suffering can range from uncomfortable to pure torture. Our heart can begin to race, our breathing to become ragged, and our anxiety levels to climb.
Your gut reaction could be to search for a solution. Are there words we can say? Is there something we can do? Is there something we can gift that will take their emotional pain away?
Try resisting the urge to dash for a solution. To help someone in emotional pain without depleting your energy, you need to settle your emotions and thoughts.
Ground your energy deep by bring your awareness back into your body. Lengthen through your spine. Breathe in through your nose, expanding your front lungs, side lungs, back lungs in 360 degrees. Feel your deep breath enter your body, cool as you breathe in, and warm as you breathe out. Slow down your breathing, your pulse, your thoughts.
Open up to the present moment and the person in distress beside you. Release the future, the past, and give yourself entirely into listening.
Listen with your full attention. Your mind will wander, grasp for solutions, for platitudes, at distractions to pull your attention away.
Just sit. Be still. Be calm and grounded.
Make space for whatever the person beside you is feeling and experiencing.
Mirror Without Emotion
Empathy is not the answer.
Do you want to help someone in emotional pain without draining your vitality and wellbeing?
Compassion is your go-to tool to best help someone who is suffering. Compassion frees up your emotional and intellectual resources to help better than empathy.
Everywhere you will hear and read that the answer is to feel the pain of the person beside you, but do not listen. Do not try and dive into the person’s soul and experience their pain. Do not rage against the injustice, bring your energy down to the low vibration of depression, or cry at the trauma or tragedy of it all.
Whereas empathy consumes and ignites your own powerful emotions, practicing compassion leverages your intellectual understanding of how the person in pain is feeling to best help them.
Are you a highly sensitive or intuitive person? You will need to work actively to resist your natural inclination to feel the pain of the person beside you acutely. Remember to settle your emotions and thoughts, ground your energy down, and only then open up.
As you sit grounded and still, listening with your entire attention, begin to mirror. Repeat the last three words that they say, and then wait.
Become comfortable with silence and learn the art of the long pause.
Give space for the person to form and express their experience.
Retain the Focus on the Person in Distress
It is natural to search for a similar experience with which to relate to the person’s situation. Resist the temptation to tell your story.
Retain the focus on the person in distress because their situation is unique. It doesn’t matter if you lost your grandma three days ago, and now you are sitting beside a friend who has just lost theirs. The situation, the experience, and the person are different.
The only thing worse than acute suffering is watching someone you love hurting. You can’t take on pain of the person sitting next to you, even if you want to with all your heart.
The truth is that trying to fix the person beside you with solutions, words, gifts, touch, and love can be selfish. One of the most beautiful ways to help someone with emotional pain is to allow space, silence, and acceptance to breathe and exist.
Name that Pain
Find a calm, low voice vibration. Remain rooted and grounded. Next, label the pain of the person in front of you. Frame it in a non-threatening way by starting with: “It seems….”.
It seems like you are feeling stressed.
Then wait. Give time for the person to think, to form their emotions into words, to speak their truth. They may elaborate on just how stressed they are feeling. Or they could correct you that they are furious, or devastated.
Begin mirroring once again. Once the person has stopped talking, repeat back the last three words that they said, and then wait for them to continue talking.
Once the person in emotional pain is done expressing their feelings, wait a moment before expressing your intention to be there for them. You can communicate how much you love and care about the person in distress, and assure them they can reach out for help to you.
The power of touch to soothe is well-known. How does a mother respond to the cry of her hurt child? Offering healing touch can be powerful, but this step depends on your relationship with the person in emotional pain and their disposition.
If touch is appropriate and will bring comfort instead of unease and awkwardness, then you can offer to hold their hand, a hug, a back rub, a hand or foot massage, or a cuddle session. The person in distress will experience a rush of feel