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We don’t need rescuing

We’re midway through the latest Women’s Coaching Circle, and I’m awash with appreciation for the insights these amazing women are having about their lives, using the 12 Elements of Power as a tool and a lens. Damn, they’re wise.

One topic we’ve been working with is the tricky terrain of rescuing or fixing, and the impact it has both on the wanna-be heroine and the one who is being rescued (who hasn’t asked to be saved, thank you very much!).

We’ve all been on both sides of the equation. We’ve fielded the late night phone calls from heartbroken friends that start with our listening, and turn into our heavy-handed advice giving. There’s that irresistible draw; once we start with the advice it’s so hard to stop.   We also know the feeling of being coddled past the point of being cheered up; we’re left with a care hangover, having been overindulged until we feel listless and unmoored.

In the language of the 12 Elements ™, this is a distortion in the power of nurturing. When we do nurturing right, we tend others in ways that are called for, and helpful, and appreciated. We don’t overdo. Sometimes nurturing looks like keeping steady, standing by, holding space. Sometimes it’s more action-based. We check in with ourselves about why we’re reaching out to another. Do we have something the other person has specifically asked for? Did we agree on this intervention? How might each of us benefit?

When we’re nurturing in a healthy way, we know because of the way it is received. The other person feels revitalized, calmed and newly content. She has accepted help on her own terms.

Distorted nurturing has the opposite effect; the person we’re trying to care for is harmed by our efforts, not helped.   When we take over for her we eliminate the possibility of her taking care of herself. She feels disempowered, weak and helpless. She misses a valuable growth opportunity. She ends up unseen, unheard, unaccounted for — its as if she disappeared, and her “issue” became the central focus of our attention. Together we create a dynamic that serves neither person.

So how do we stay with the healthy form of nurturing, and avoid the distorted one? Simple: just ask. First ask the person who seems to need care; does she want it from you? Might she prefer to take space in order to care for herself? What type of nurturing would best serve her?

Then ask yourself. What’s driving the desire to nurture another person? Do I truly want to help, or is there something about being a helper that has nothing to do with her?

And please remember, before we help another we must first put on our own oxygen mask. That means self-tending in whatever ways you need. Being sure you’re coming from a place of wholeness, not lack, where you feel energized, not depleted, is essential when you sign up to nurture someone else. From there, the beautiful powerful of your caring can work its magic.


This is a serious topic, but here’s a video about it that’ll make you giggle.  You’re welcome.


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