Selfishly Helping

2 kittens snuggling

It’s a funny thing… over the years, I have acted as a sounding board and supportive listener for a very large number of people. And I’ll admit it hasn’t always been easy – sometimes the timing is very inconvenient, sometimes you have empathy overload and feel an incredible amount of their pain, and sometimes you’re put in awkward spots where people have confided in you about each other, and you’re not at liberty to discuss what you know, and before you know it you’ll find yourself in an awkward tap dance of kindness, tact, compassion, and discretion.

But — and this is the most important thing of all — it’s worth it.

I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned so much about life, about myself, from listening to other people’s stories and hearing how they approach problems, even if they fundamentally differ in their outlook from me. It’s been a marvelous education.

And when I can actually be helpful, even momentarily, even in a small way? It feels so gratifying, so amazing.

So it’s interesting to me and a foreign feeling when others complain about giving loved ones emotional support. For the most part, I practically get selfish pleasure from emotionally supporting people.

Granted, I’m not a fucking saint. If you’re actively shitty to me, I’m not keen on being your shoulder to cry on. This active shittiness could be insulting me, being dismissive of what I have to say (note: dismissing something and disagreeing with it are two different things), demanding reassurance on a certain time frame regardless of what else is going on in my life, or being offended when I recuse myself from something I’m too close to for comfortable discussion.

I suspect we all have our limits with this. For some, it seems to be that they need to be equal in their emotional support back. I find that I don’t necessarily need this. So long as I’m getting it SOMEWHERE, I’m fine, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the same person I’m giving support to. Plus, equal doesn’t mean the same. We all have our strengths. One person might be a big help as an emotional verbal processor — someone else might save the day by fixing your car. Support wears many faces.

Although I’ll admit I have had days where I’ve been in a spot where my best emotional supports were all unsuitable for one reason or another (everyone in the situation biased, not allowed to share situation with others, not seeing therapist at the time and generally stable enough at the time that hiring one would have been overkill) when I was thrashing and flailing pretty hardcore.

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