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On the subject of caring. Tuesday June 28, 2016

Whilst trying to assist a colleague through a rough patch recently, a wailing, despairing type of rough patch, you know the one, I was struck by how helpless I felt, even having been there so many times myself.

It didn't help that I could only respond by phone having received a far-too-bright text with "help me" written clearly between the lines. I had to listen to this lovely person wailing their heart out on the other end of the line, when I wanted to just hug them, listen and hand out the tissues."

And I realised, even as a fellow passenger of the good old roller-coaster that is bi-polar and its siblings, that mere blandishments over the phone seemed so glaringly insufficient.

The colleague was in a place of safety, hiding upstairs, family downstairs, an understanding one at that, but he didn't feel he could impose, as "There's nothing really wrong with me".

I tried to tempt him out remotely, using the following analogies, on the basis that people want to be allowed to try to help, and they can't try to help if you shut yourself away.

Thus, if you find someone lying in the road, you don't attempt heart surgery, but you care, within the limits of your expertise – from getting assistance, keeping them warm, safe and comforted. You are there for them.

A sick child: comfort, warmth, a tentative diagnosis to assess need for intervention, and reassurance go a long way. You are there for them.

A friend suffering a bereavement of someone very dear to them – hopefully most of us haven't had this experience – just listening helps a lot. You are there for them.

A howling, grief-ridden pal, partner or relative arriving in your midst, you don't immediately start psychotherapy, you sling an arm around them and dole out the tissues. You are there for them.

So my message is, I think, that we must allow people to try to help, as I find just being with people, and being allowed to be there but not there, is good therapy.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Anonymous Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 7:15am

Thank you, Charlie, for this timely reminder of the good it does to reach out. Go well.

LillyPet Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 8:22am

Hi Charlie,
Yes, when I feel in need of support, what I want is someone on "my side". To be able to pour my feelings out and be understood and reassured.
There are many who dont want to be "fixed". For me, if the intention is good, I listen, I may not agree, I may already know what they're saying, but there' can be one small thing that stays with me. Maybe something new or hearing something in a new way.
For me it's the support and reassurance that counts. That someone is there for me. Unconditionally compassionate, with metaphorical hugs and tissues, helping me to feel better about myself when I've lost who I am.
Thankfully I have been ok for sometime, but never take that for granted. I remain vigilant with ups and downs so as to stay either on track or not far from it!
Thank you for the reminder that we're not all the same though, it's hard to know what to say sometimes, so saying little but being there is something I'll try to do more. I tend to speak from the heart with faith that it will soothe, but maybe less is more.
Great blog Charlie. Hugs to all LP :)

Hopeful One Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 8:56am

Hi Charlie- a timely blog emphasising the importance of touch and the ability to hear and listen to someone who is in distress. My mandatory module for the counselling skills qualification I am studying was Humanistic Theory . One of the psycho therapeutic models in this theory was proposed by Carl Rogers and is called person centred therapy. In this theory Carl Rogers identified six 'core conditions' for therapy to progress. Three of the conditions are client related which I will not elaborate but basically any one who comes for 'help 'has them. and three for the therapist. These are unconditional positive regard( non judgemental) ,emphatic understanding( the ability to feel what the client feels) and congruence( genuine honesty with the client). One can develop these without going for a psychology module although it helps. If one can incorporate these in our attempts to help others one will find that the result is far better than just listening.

Onward with the Stella Awards... The Squadron is well refreshed and ready to do battle after a wonderful holiday in sunny warm Skopelos.

3rd Place: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone). The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

Leah Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 11:06am

What a thoughtful blog. I think asking for help and being able to receive help can be problematic for some people.
Take Care

Frankie Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 11:12am

This is so true Charlie; and as one of life's "I'll sort it - leave it to me" people I find it frustrating when others don't follow my excellent advice (!). Thank-you for this timely reminder that less is often more, and that the simplest things can go a long way. Frankie (promising to listen more and talk less)

The Gardener Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 11:44am

Super thought-provoking blog. HO, super reply - and the joke! The blog made me think, as I laboriously swept terraces, that 'carers' give off an aura. You can have super friends, family, but try to get 'near' and the 'Private' sign goes up. 'Carers' are at risk of being over-burdened - but the sensible ones do NOT drop everything - point to the kettle, coffee and mugs and say 'be with you in a minute'. I go to UK on Saturday - and as my list grows I get the 'panic' dream. I am on the boat, forgotten book, forgotten where I left Mr G!! Lady in next seat has same handbag, and they've got muddled. Now, nobody would own a handbag like mine, so NAFF. But, it's highly practical. Most women seem to need a GPS to find anything in their huge, ornate and costly affairs - usually car keys.

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 12:16pm

Wishing you a smooth journey on Saturday and a wonderful stay over here.

Tutti Frutti Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 2:00pm

Gardener I love your of handbags. I have a fairly small, reasonably modest M&S job myself but even then I seem to be able to overload it with rubbish and end up scrabbling around for what I need. Good luck for your trip back to blighty. Love TF x

Skyblue Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 12:13pm

Thanks for this, Charlie. I always need this kind of reminder. From the helper side, I always used to try and find the words first. But I've learned that just being there for someone and allowing them to be there in whatever way that means, is the most important focus. The right words, if needed, will follow. I think the first two conditions listed by Hopeful One can be communicated very well without words. From the distressed side, I'm always so grateful for the loving presence of unconditional acceptance and empathy, words or no words. In that situation, the wise words can even come from myself:) Thank again xx

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 12:18pm

Thank Charlie. I am listening to three different sets of people at present. just listening, holding (in two cases just at the end of a phone) and loving. They are grateful and I think, after many occasions on which I have been the one being listened to, that I no longer feel inadequate. Sometimes, the ear, the hug (even if only a virtual hug) and tissues are precisely and only what is needed at the time.

The Gardener Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 12:23pm

Nothing to do with blog. HO's jokes underline the absolute craziness of the 'greatest democracy (!!) in the world. I admit xenophobia towards that country - and absolute terror of a future with Donald Trump at the helm. Re-reading John Grisham - who portrays the denizens of that country as greedy and thoughtless. What shall I read as an antidote? Uncle Tom's Cabin, Little Women, Pollyanna?

Mary Wednesday Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 4:18pm

To Kill a Mockingbird. Definitely Pollyanna, and, while romance may not be your bag, Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series represents America and its military in a positive, but not at all idealistic light. There are many many good people out there. Problem is, all the ones I know were voting Bernie!

A View from the Far Side Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 8:22pm

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City.

g Tue, Jun 28th 2016 @ 8:41pm

Richard Brautigan , Kurt Vonnegut , David Foster Wallace , Jonathan Franzen ,Charles Bukowski , Lena Dunham ,Salinger , all Millers, Norman Mailer ,Hardy ...many many more ... are you kidding by asking this question ?

and why voting Bernie is a problem ? I hope the whole country votes Bernie .

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 1:11pm

My friend Linda did an excellent job yesterday of providing tea and sympathy while I told her that my wrist which she had enquired about was not the main issue at all. My husband had bothered to tell her about the wrist and totally failed to pass on that I was feeling low. He is pretty rubbish at reading between the lines! But as I actually have him as a moodscope buddy to ensure that he notices how I am I was a bit taken aback by the extent to which he just doesn't get it. Anyway I suppose it shows his heart is in the right place if he was concerned about my wrist and I am just glad that lovely Linda is so much more on the right planet!
Love TF x

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