Are you the person who takes on responsibility for all your family and your friends. Do you find that people come to you for advice? Every family has someone who acts as the Kahuna, the Agony Aunt or Uncle, the Peacemaker. The problem often is that that person then doesn’t have anyone to turn to for their own problems!
There is a very strange anomaly in the world of therapy/coaching/counselling and I hazard a guess that many other professions will be similar. We tend to attract to us clients who have the problem we had or, they have one which we haven’t yet noticed is in our own lives yet.
It’s one of my biggest bug bears of the self help industry. Not all of the professionals involved recognise the basis of the problem – themselves. You might have heard of the phrase ‘walk the talk’ – well in my opinion, never could it be more necessary than in self help. Too many people believe that they have all the answers and yet fail to apply them. Too many act as experts without having the humility to show themselves as still very much part of the learning process. Too many are prescriptive and tell you what to do ... it doesn’t work best that way, it works best when they help you find your own solutions by asking questions so that you create an independence and don’t rely on your helper/guide/professional as a crutch.
Did you know that Kahuna .. not the big Mac kind .. the real, original ones who were like the magic men of the villages, the ‘fixers of problems’ – took their role very seriously. What they did when someone came to them with an issue, is that they would listen to the problem and then send the person away, telling them to come back in a few days/weeks time. They then sat down with the problem and began to think of where they had the same problem in their lives. It might not have been exactly the same situation or circumstances, but it would have generated the same effect or feelings. They would then sort out their own issues and believe it or not the person who had come for advice would find that their problem was then sorted too.
Gandhi did that when a mother brought her child to him and asked Gandhi to tell the child not to eat sugar. The story goes that Gandhi was an idol to this child and the mother kept telling him that sugar was bad for him and he must stop eating it. He however persisted and at her wits end she decided to take to meet Gandhi and hope that he would have more influence on her child. When she got there she said to Gandhi ‘Please tell my son not to eat sugar it’s bad for him’. She was sent away and told to come back in two weeks time. When mother and child returned Gandhi duly told the child to stop eating sugar as it was bad for him. The mother was perplexed and asked why he hadn’t done it two weeks previously, to which he replied that two weeks previously he ate too much sugar!
If you find yourself having an emotional reaction to something someone else does, take a step back and recognise that somewhere inside you is the same problem ... you wouldn’t react so strongly if you didn’t. It really is the red flag on the putting green to your own issues and although it can be tough to admit, it sure is one hell of a gift to be able to see it and put it right on your own doorstep first.
Of course it’s not just the helping professionals who need to recognise their own issues, it’s everyone who metes out advice to friends and family. Stop, look and listen to your own life, sort it out and see what then happens. Are you walking your talk or are you merely pontificating with great advice?
This month please take some time and see how you react to your children’s fighting – how does it show you where you still have stuff to learn. How are you reacting to your ex’s behaviour or language – how are you doing things similar? Are work colleagues challenging you ... who are you challenging somewhere else in your life?