Have you ever found yourself ready to pull out your hair because “that person just won’t listen to my advice,” or because “don’t they see how much they are hurting themselves by doing that,” or because “I can’t fathom how someone could be so irresponsible – it’s just too much!”
But getting all akimbo and kerfuffled like this is almost totally unnecessary.
And we do it because we feel responsible for other peoples’ problems. We feel like we have to solve their problem or their life for them. We feel like we can’t possibly let them make them make a mess of their life.
But we can, and we really have no other choice but to do so.
And that’s because we cannot make anyone else’s decisions for them. We can’t make anyone do anything, really.
And no matter what they chose to do, we are not responsible for that choice. And that’s because we actually cannot be responsible for anything we have no control over. And we absolutely have no control over anyone other than ourselves… try as we might.
Yes, if concerned, we can listen, support, encourage, and ASK if said person wants our advice or help with their problem (if we actually do want to help them) AND they can say no. And it’s probably good for all parties involved if we respect that response (although we may really have to resist our urge to fix fix fix anyway!).
On the other hand if they DO say they want our help, we are free to help. Or at least help them in the way they want to be helped, not necessarily the way we think they should be helped. That’s a tough one to resist too.
And the thing is, when we push our unsolicited advice, expertise or world renowned knowledge on anyone else, more often than not, it only serves to annoy that person because they don’t actually want us to fix it, and it frustrates us because they just won’t listen.
As the saying goes, you can drag a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
Even If we think or even KNOW that what they are doing is wrong, self-destructive, or ineffective, if they are not open to hearing it or doing anything about it, that is absolutely their choice. They are welcome to mess their own life up – we all are, actually. And really, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it – no matter how much it hurts us to watch it happen.
This might sound weird coming from a therapist.
“Isn’t it your job to help people with their problems?” and the answer is yes, absolutely. To help them. Not to do it for them. And if they don’t want to do anything about the issue, that is absolutely up to them. As soon as you or I or any of us think it’s our responsibility to fix another person, we are in trouble.
Yes, I facilitate and help with healing, growth, movement, learning and resolution. But I don’t do it for anyone, because I know that it doesn’t and can’t work like that.
So do people and their problems ever drive me bonkers? Absolutely not. Because I trust that each person has a right to, and responsibility for their own lives, their own choices, their own beliefs, and their own behaviours (and is also responsible for any resulting consequences).
And if they are not ready or willing to deal with, move through, heal from, or grow then it’s both mine and your job to respect their right to lead their own lives.
If you found this valuable, please share it. And if you do, let me know so I can thank you.
I’m Julia Kristina M.A. Psych, and I’m a CBT, Mindfulness, and Strength Based registered therapist, researcher and online course creator out of Vancouver BC.
I help men and women get through the crap that’s holding them back so they can like themselves and their lives more everyday.