People-pleaser to fighter: The Nurturer’s Journey

“One can easily become a monster… it’s pathetic. What I want more than anything… is to know how to care. Bah.”

Today I wanted to talk about the Nurturer. This is the part of one’s self who naturally cares about others, and wants to help people to become better. He (or she) sees people in need, and wants to help. He has good intentions.

But perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The Nurturer sometimes gets too excited about the idea of helping somebody that he forgets the whole picture, and all the complexities involved in taking action. Sometimes we hurt people without intending to, or we support those who are creating harm.

All too often, the Nurturer turns those bad results on himself, feeling guilt and pain. He buys self-help books. He fantasizes about being able to truly help others, and can get envious of those who already do. And after the envy and guilt, he fully accepts it was a mistake to get so down on himself, that he still has flaws, that he still has much to learn. And he has the drive.

There’s another path for the Nurturer, that doesn’t involve constantly modifying himself and examining his flaws, where he doesn’t have to keep watching himself in order to be a better, kinder human being. Instead, he can fight.

Mistakes in kindness usually happen when a part of yourself that’s out of line – something arrogant, demeaning, prideful, hateful – goes unquestioned inside you. Your Nurturer can decide that, instead of catering to the whims of others all the time, and helping those in need, he can do more good by fighting with those who create your suffering. Questioning them. In the process, he’ll be confronting his own demons – thus changing and becoming more able to care for others.

That’s the thing – defeating what’s uncaring in you, rather than cleaning up after them, you become more caring.

After wandering around under the radar, doing good here, good there, the decision to fight makes this part of yourself more like a chivalrous knight. Ready to draw a hard line and tell your inner demons to back down. Ready to prove their approach to life as wrong.

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Balanced Apologies

Today, someone got upset after I touched some stuff of theirs. At the time, I had no idea that this person would get so upset, and to me what I was doing was no big deal. But to them, it was, and when they found out they got angry, calling what I did as “wrong”. I started to say things like “only according to you” and acted as if I had done nothing wrong or anything I need to apologize for. But at the same time I felt an inner conflict brewing over the issue.

So I separated myself from the situation and went to go utilize the techniques I have to work through the issue. The technique I used here was to just listen to the thoughts with my eyes closed, and get a general sense of the different parts of myself who were in on this debate. The issue, whether or not I should apologize, brought up several responses:

  1. A stubborn, fiery, demanding guy. He said things like, “why should I apologize? That other person over-reacted! I did nothing wrong! And I felt nothing was wrong at the time. Don’t try to force an apology out of me!”
  2. A thoughtful, calm, concerned guy. This guy thought things like, “But… it would be the courageous thing to apologize, the right thing. I mean, there are a lot of people who act the way you do and just act like a brat… Well, what is the right thing to do here?”
  3. A nasty guy who just wanted to gobble up praise from others: “hehe if we apologize then we’ll be thought of as a brave, courageous person. Oh boy!”
  4. A calm peaceful force, which, when asked, admitted that it didn’t care about the issue at all.

The first guy didn’t want to look weak, or put on a show of being pathetic. It knew I had thought it was the right thing to do at the time, I wasn’t “doing wrong”. However, that’s always the case, and I knew that apologizing is important on some occasions, or, if not apologizing, at least something to make it right. The way I resolved the issue was by the second guy saying, “Ok, it’s true we weren’t wrong at the time, but that was because we didn’t know how the person would react. If we had known, we would’ve chosen differently. So, we can at least tell them that.” Then the third guy popped up, getting excited about apologizing because it would make me look good. I decided I did not want to be it about that at all, and would say so as well.

So, when I went to apologize, I did so without getting all depressed or guilt-ridden. I simply said “let’s talk” to the person, then, in order to keep in balance between all sides of myself, mentioned three things:

  1. That at the time I thought what I did was right
  2. That if I had known how the person would react I would have chosen differently. And so, I was sorry for that.
  3. Then (after they said “well it takes a big man to say that”), I told them I did not want to be considered courageous or strong or a big man for saying what I just did. And I explained why. They understood and I got 0 praise after that, thankfully.

And things were made right, the barrier of bitterness was broken down and I could talk openly with this person again. Granted, that barrier wasn’t up long, but it’s easy to imagine that it can stay up for a long time between people. Moreover, after doing this exercise, I now realize how easily I could’ve just gone along with the first voice, and stayed self-righteous. A lot of people go about life this way, always blaming others and never taking responsibility for things themselves. But there’s always holes in the blamer’s argument.

I also realized that an opposite approach can be taken as well. You can punish yourself, and force yourself to feel guilty and wrong because of something that felt right to you at the time. Instead of taking the time to consider the voice that says “I am NOT at fault here”, you can impose an edict on yourself that you ARE at fault and you must apologize. This is also unfair to yourself, and it might be done to just not lose favor with other people.

That third voice, that likes praise, seems like another pitfall, because just wanting to be praised and esteemed by others is not a good reason for doing things, and I feel like it points to hidden insecurity. Remember to address this if you ever do something that others would consider praise-worthy. I guess I would call this ego, and that continuing down that path of collecting praise is one that will just continue to inflate one’s own ego.

In any case, when apologizing, I’d just say that just make sure that you settle all your conflicts about it first before you go ahead with it. Both the knee-jerk defensive reaction and the caring, thoughtful parts of yourself have things to learn from each other. I feel like if you favor one or the other your decision just won’t sit right.

Stress: A Disagreement with Peace

How I represent the peaceful force inside myself – as a white bird

There’s part of you who’s always calm, relaxed, and cares about you. When you get anxious or worried, it’s probably because you’re disagreeing in some way with this relaxed self. “Yes, I do need to get worried! Look at all these things I’ve got to do, how could I be calm right now??? I’d get nothing done! Ugh! I don’t know if I’ll get them done… oh no…” It seems that whenever you do something out of fear you are disagreeing with the way the calm part of you handles things. After all, it’s fight or flight at that point, as opposed to calm. And it’s not bothered at all in respecting your wishes and standing aside, letting you get fearful and worried – that’s what someone who cares for you would do, after all. Still, I get the sense that if you work through your differences with this side of you, it would stay with you all the time – now wouldn’t that be awesome?