Handling Your Reactions to the Distress of Others – by Rick Wilkes

When others are in distress, we want to help, to be caring, to be present. Yet, other people's troubles often trigger our own issues.  If we are empathetic and sensitive, we can even find ourselves feeling another person's emotional pain very intensely. So how do we protect ourselves from being adversely affected by their distress, and much less helpful because of this?

Sometimes we shut down.  We can't cope with how the other person’s pain feels in our body.  So we listen with half an ear.  Or we may become detached and “professional”. or make an excuse and turn away.

If we do listen, we might find ourselves getting emotionally upset, which certainly doesn’t help anyone.  Have you ever had a friend tell you that they feel much better after sharing something with you, only to suffer yourself for hours or days afterwards as you have nightmares about what it might be like to be in your friend’s shoes?  If this happens to you, I want to strongly encourage you to take steps to clear the negative emotions as they are happening.

Let's say that a person calls you, very upset. You can start tapping immediately and continue tapping throughout the conversation. Here’s how it will help…

First of all, you will stay more calm and relaxed throughout the conversation.  That’s good for your health and allows you to be more present.  You will be less distracted by the distress and fear in your own body, so more positive energy and peace will be available for healing. And, you will gain benefits by healing your own emotional pain triggers even as you care for someone else.

Let me share with you an example of a time when I did NOT use tapping when a friend’s pain was upsetting me.

The call came a few days after her birthday.  My friend sounded deeply hurt, depressed and angry. Her “no good husband” hadn't gotten her the present that she had hinted strongly that she wanted.  Making the situation far worse, the shirt that he had bought her was not the right size.  It was WAY too big.  And all husbands should know that buying clothes that are BIGGER than your wife actually requires is a capital offense.

As a husband myself who has failed a few times on special occasions (particularly early in our marriage), I felt a flood of different emotions.  I was angry at her husband for hurting her; she’s my friend, and I want to protect her from harm. I was also angry at myself for hurting my wife; if this is how she felt then I really am an ugly toad!

I was also starting to get defensive; I was feeling vulnerable and wanted to protect my ego from feelings of shame and guilt  My feelings were all over the map, and no matter what I said to my friend, it wasn’t helping her or me! We both hung up, an hour later, feeling exhausted and troubled.

It’s quite different during the conversations I have today.  Now that I know and use EFT when I receive calls and emails from friends, family, and clients who are deeply upset, my first impulse is to start tapping, and to continue tapping as long as I am feeling the least bit unsettled.  This works so effectively regardless of the emotional issues that I am still surprised by how peaceful I can feel… even when hearing the worst of what people can do to one another, when I hear of people dying, and even when I hear of disasters striking innocent people worldwide.

Please know that EFT tapping does not make you heartless and disconnected; on the contrary, if we can feel calm and confident, we can be fully present. We can hear our inner guidance direct us how to respond.

By contrast, if I am feeling fear, a part of me is wanting to hide and protect myself.  Isn’t it that way for you, too?

So why not give this a try?  Just tap the points while you listen to someone in pain when talking on the telephone.  (Pat’s comment: Or try mentally tapping the points when you are face to face with a person in deep distress).  Tap when you hear gossip! Tap the points if you see something upsetting on television or in the news.

In addition to continuous tapping of the acupoints, I also recommend that you consciously slow and deepen your breathing.  As a shortcut, I often find that continuous tapping on the collarbone spot while taking slow, deep breaths can shift my anxiety level immediately.

Good luck, and let me know how it works for you.

Rick Wilkes

Rick can be contacted through his website http://www.thrivingnow.com

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