While I am not a therapist/counsellor, I do have some experience on the subject matter – my own journeys towards balance and equilibrium, often fraught with ups & downs and unforeseen circumstances. Exercising self-discipline and self-restrain have been helpful and so I have applied the same steps other trusted and wiser friends & colleagues have used on me. I share them with you all in the hope that they can be useful in your own personal/professional journeys. These are not magic tricks nor are they intended to replace the good office of a professional mental health worker – consider them rather refreshing interpersonal tools that you are likely to possess already, in the service of others.
ACCEPTANCE – Listening attentively to your friend’s pain and sadness shows that you actually care for their well-being, not just in good times, but in ALL times. It cements trust and deepens the friendship. Tune-in to his/her body language and non-verbal storytelling, and if appropriate, a gentle touch could be helpful too.
JUDGEMENT – Being non-judgemental establishes a warm/affectionate plateau for sharing and tells him/her you’re there to listen, and if appropriate, offer some comforting thoughts, words of kindness and compassion. This is about restoring confidence and nurturing hope.
TIME & PLACE – Talking & active listening is time consuming, but, essential when trying to be helpful; be prepared and willing not to be distracted by other matters, and turn-off any gadgets you carry, including your cell phone. He/she deserves and needs your undivided attention, period. Finding the right place for such conversation should be always in the hands of your friend/colleague – if you are indeed friends, accommodate to her/his choice.
ACCOUNTABILITY – Feeling depressed carries a sense of guilt, a deep feeling of inadequacy, an alienating undercurrent of loneliness and in some cases, a desire to “exit” – you must find creative, playful and respectful ways to alleviate these dark moments in the conversation. And, manifest frequently how much you value and appreciate having them in your life, in other words, inject a strong dose of positivism, helping them to celebrate their accomplishments, no matter how small or large they may be.
APPRECIATION – Your friend/colleague is revealing his/her most worrisome feelings, perhaps even telling you things from their personal lives you didn’t know. Whatever it may be, least criminality is involved, naturally – reiterate your appreciation for their very being – this is after all a fellow human in distress, not a statistic on a report. And, offer solace, company and the possibility of doing something together; a walk in the park; or an outing to a good play/concert and exploring some good eatery in the neighbourhood afterwards; perhaps a good swim at the lake or public swimming pool.
REBUILDING THE SELF – What we are talking about here is rebuilding his/her confidence, while gaining an understanding that we cannot possibly control all events in our lives, and certainly not the lives of others. The idea is to help him/her set a new positive tone; respectfully assisting in their revelations and awareness. And, if by the end of the conversation she/he feels something illuminating has been achieved, even better. If not, wait for the next opportunity to explore the issues further; friends are truly friends, by being available and present when needed.
WHAT IS POSSIBLE? – One of the things you should try is, without imposing your “eager-to-be-helpful” calling, is to gently steer the conversation away from negative or destructive outcomes. Ask open questions, inquire as to what are the obstacles and challenges in their lives; do they have a goal in mind? What would help him/her to be motivated toward a positive and changing reality? In some ways, you are acting as a “motivational coach” which will help them to assess in more practical terms where they are grounded in their own lives.
BEING HUMAN – Nothing replaces his/her active engagement in recovering their balance; thus, while you are trying to be helpful, you must also remember it is their journey – you are simply helping them gaining further understanding as to their circumstances, the present moment, so to speak, and of course, helping to reduce the stressors afflicting your friend in the “here and now” … Hopefully, it’s an open-ended conversation with your friend; throw in a good laughter from time to time, it provides great relief. And remember; you’re accompanying him/her for as long as your presence is welcome and the possibilities for shifting to recovery, balance and wellness remain. –
About the Author: Leo Campos Aldunez www.tcng.ca is a poet, cultural worker, interpreter/translator, adult educator and multilingual social media|social marketing professional based in Edmonton, AB (Canada). He is also an associate & co-leader of the emerging cooperative platform known as Wayfinders Business Cooperative.