*Editor’s Note: Elephant is not your doctor or hospital. Our lawyers would say “this web site is not designed to, and should not be construed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. Always consult a health professional before trying out new home therapies or changing your diet.” But we can’t afford lawyers, and you knew all that. ~ Ed.
The terms “stress” and “carry” mean different things to each of us.
These terms constantly evolve as new deadlines approach, new relationships form, and new filters distort.
We are each triggered differently as we are conditioned and imprinted differently, so there’s no real universal solution that dissolves all stress. And because stress impacts us uniquely, its spillover to the people close to us also varies in degree.
One thing is certain—stress does carry over, and often descends into implosive or explosive energies. The best in us wants to help shoulder the stress of our loved ones and carry them out of the fog. We want to make them feel better. But despite our greatest intentions, when we don’t know how best to carry them, our efforts could short circuit and backfire.
Carrying our loved ones out of their stressful moments is no small undertaking. It’s arguably one of the most important things we could do, but few of us truly do it well. Needless to say, dissolving chaotic energy is an art that requires a high degree of skill, and few of us are properly equipped for this level of work.
When stress is mistreated or mismanaged, it sends negative energy into downward spirals, and I have certainly been guilty of making things worse by escalating pain instead of diminishing it. Even when our energy is relatively neutral, the person who is stressed could react violently to us, similarly to how wind can blow out a candle, or fan a blazing fire. When we are not the ones on fire, it’s easy to dismiss the burns and mistreat emotions, thereby fueling others’ pain, instead of alleviating it. When we are ill-equipped to know better, our “help” often ends up hurting.
After devoting myself to studies in psychology, therapy, and constant experimentation with new approaches, I have finally developed a system that helps us to become truly helpful and healing beings:
1. Always validate first.
Never dismiss their feelings or narratives, however insignificant they may seem to you. If it didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be affected.
As long as our loved ones are impacted, every trigger absolutely matters to the degree that they feel to be true.
We all seek and need validation—it is an essential grounding force. When validation comes from our loved ones, we glow a bit more. But validation is also used by people with less wholesome intentions, to derail and control us. When we don’t feel that we are validated, we make poor judgments and align with those who do validate us. Alignment gravitates to validation, regardless of whether it’s correct or not. That’s how energy travels.
So, harmonize with them.
2. Stop judging or thinking we know best.
It’s not just that we often don’t know what’s best for someone else, but also that positioning ourselves as superior only makes the person we are trying to help feel inferior, by sheer default power dynamics.
Our loved ones’ stresses and fires, as they are relevant or irrelevant to us, are not the point or concern, and making them so is another way that our efforts hurt instead of heal.
We need to meet them exactly where they are and let them know that they are not alone—that we are here right by their sides, with them and for them, to love them and protect them.
Communicate clearly that we are here to share their journey without telling them that they should have known better or handled things better. They don’t need another voice telling them that they are not enough.
3. Don’t automatically try to “solve it.”
Many helpers are fixers. I’ve definitely been a strong-willed fixer in all my years before establishing this system. But the end result of my seemingly helpful behavior, was that I only exacerbated the circumstances by making sacrifices in areas where they weren’t appreciated, which in turn engendered resentment on my part. We can’t extinguish stress with more stress.
Now I understand that my efforts weren’t appreciated because they were not needed. I simply needed to hear and validate my loved ones’ narratives, instead of looking at them like a puzzle I was insistent on solving.
More than our analysis and diagnosis (both of which are better saved for later, if at all mentioned), our loved ones need to be heard, as they are, as they feel.
4. Listen to everything they have to say. Go beneath the face value of their words.
Listen truly, patiently, and actively even to their silences and behaviors. These often reveal to us where our loved ones feel most vulnerable and unsafe. It is these vulnerabilities that we need to embrace the most. Do better than just listening—actually make them feel heard. It’s this second part we don’t always accomplish, as few of us are cognizant of this need. Go the distance to bridge the gap.
5. Make them feel safe.
This should be our most important objective. Everything else is secondary.
Nothing else matters if they do not feel secure or safe. We need to ensure our words and behavior all align with this goal.
Security is linked to oxytocin, which combats stress, so making our loved ones feel secure is of utmost importance. To get them thriving again, we must first carry them out of survival mode. Otherwise, we are only dealing with primal impulses. Only by fostering a sense of belonging can we reduce the stresses that are linked to survival challenges.
6. Embrace them.
Whether they are expressing or expelling pain, our only response should be to embrace them.
This means that even as they become verbally aggressive toward us, and we feel like arguing or criticizing their behavior, we should choose to respond solely with love and a full embrace.
This is most difficult, but most effective in carrying our loved ones out of their darkness. They are carrying enough pain already, which is why that energy needs to be expelled from their body. We don’t need to add our own pain to this already mix.
When our loved ones are engulfed by negative emotions, this is perhaps the worst time to lecture or rationalize. Emotions run on their own track. If our goal is to reduce stress, then adding more tension to the pot surely won’t help.
Wherever energy exchanges happen, there is alchemy at play, so we must be mindful of what kind of energy we are contributing to our connections. Only by tuning into our own energy, can we truly carry our loved ones out of stress and darkness.