BlogInner Peace for Challenging Times

When You Can’t Help

By in Blog, Inner Peace for Challenging Times

Other people… they can be annoying, infuriating, aggravating. They can be stubborn. They can be intrusive when we want to be alone, they can be distant when we long for some acknowledgement. They can drive us crazy!

One of the most painful situations of all occurs when a loved one is suffering and we wish we could help, but we can’t…

In this episode of Inner Peace for Challenging Timesyou’ll hear how my student Dora was able to bring calming, steady presence to a situation with her daughter when she could have felt powerless to help. Perhaps it can help you, too!

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Dora’s adult daughter Stephanie is doing OK… she has a job she likes, she has her own family… but Stephanie can get upset with life, and have outbursts where she shouts angrily, cursing, and crying.


Dora finds this hard for so many reasons! She wishes she could help. But nothing that she does seems to help. In fact, any intervention puts Dora in Stephanie’s crosshairs. She risks becoming the target of the rage instead of just being a witness to it.

A part of Dora blames Stephanie for being childish, not being able to control herself, or have more perspective. And a bigger part of Dora blames HERSELF. She’s Stephanie’s mother. She should be able to help!

This is a really hard situation for Dora. But the last time it happened, she tried something different.

She remembered me saying that, even if you can’t change or fix the other person, you CAN give yourself the self-compassion you need to stay present for them with the love that you do feel.

Do you know what I mean? Staying present for another person really requires you to stay present for yourself… It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask before you help someone else.

So Stephanie was raging. Something had triggered her and she was caught up in her feelings of upset, outrage, and powerlessness.

Dora was there with her, feeling all too familiar feelings of irritation mixed with guilt and her own sense of powerlessness.

But Dora did something different this time.

ONE. She inwardly paused so that she could NOTICE her own feelings instead of just being carried away by them.

TWO. She silently said to her own feelings, “Hello I know you are there.” (Yes, you can do this while looking at another person, and they don’t know you’re doing it!)

THREE. She silently said to her daughter, “And I can be here for you too.”

The quality of your presence is very different when you’re calm. And this comes across to other people, even if you don’t say a word.

Dora inwardly acknowledged her own powerlessness. She inwardly acknowledged she didn’t have a clue what to say that would help. And doing so acknowledging allowed her to simply be there.

There’s no guarantee what will happen when you do something like this. Maybe it won’t make any difference for the other person. But at least you’re giving yourself some inner caring in a hard situation. At least it becomes easier for you to be there.

In the case of Dora and Stephanie, it seemed to make a difference. Stephanie calmed down faster than usual. She looked her mom in the eye, and — wonder of wonders — said, “I’m sorry. Thank you for just being there and not trying to fix it for me.”

Because Dora was already inwardly present, she was able to receive that, and smile back.

Sometimes the best we can do in a tough situation is be present for ourselves.

And sometimes that leads to amazing things happening… More inner peace for ourselves and the other person.

Do you want to have more of my tips for calm in the midst of stress? Join me for my free e-course, Get Bigger Than What’s Bugging You. It’s full of these simple miracles!

Here’s to you… having a more peaceful life!

So here’s to you… having a more peaceful life.



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