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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How does your Defensiveness hurt you?

There is a side of you who defends his actions against the consideration of doing differently. “But, that’s not all of me!” you might say (defensively), and you’re right. But what does that part of you do to you?

Defensiveness, protecting the wrong things

Well, one thing it can do is act like a shield against the wrong things, things that can actually help you. It holds back the desire to learn and grow, become better and more free inside. It’s that voice inside your head (or out loud) that talks like this “Just shut up! You don’t know me! Go away!” and causes you to push away from people. Always insistent and alarmed by a suggestion that you might be doing¬†the wrong thing.

But learning is the process of discovering that you were wrong, again and again. You didn’t know it all, there was more to it than you thought. That wall of defensiveness, then, will stop you from learning. And learning renders you more capable to move freely and intelligently in a new area of life. If you push away from the idea that you could be wrong, then you also push yourself down too, you limit your capabilities. Rather than feeling like you can try new things, learn about yourself, or consider where your actions have caused harm freely, you learn resentment, denial of your feelings, and living a life where you try to avoid the things that push your buttons.

“But I don’t want my buttons pushed!” you might say. I hear you. But you can also dismantle the buttons. And defensiveness is one of those buttons.

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Tension and the Promise of Glory

Long ago my tense guy was helped out of his slump by a demon pursuing glory for himself. Since then, my tense guy supported his cause.

“Did you know that with action, and the willingness to fight, you can achieve almost anything?”

“Yeah, but why would I want to? What’s the point? I mean, wouldn’t I just lose it all again anyway? Why try hard with anything?”

“Perhaps. You might lose it all – but you might gain everything and more. Think of how you feel now. Would you really want that again? Think of what you might miss if you never tried at all. The heights of humanity are far from this place.”

“You really think so? You really think I can do it?!”

“Submit to me, and I will bring you to heights you never thought were possible.”

“Fine! I’ll do it!”

“Good. Now pay attention…”

Today, I learned about the past of the part of me who gets tense a lot. A long time ago (I don’t know when), this side of me felt lost and alone. I had lost something precious to me, and somehow, another side of me caught wind and showed up. This other side offered me, in my loneliness and despair, a new path, one that few dare to travel. To find glory, and taste the fruits of those things in life that few men can achieve. It was the promise to win a life full of what I had lost and more. To go beyond what I knew, that is, what was lost, and to grasp for what I could only imagine awaited me.

Not that there’s anything wrong with seeking something out-of-the-ordinary, or to do unique things, but the side of me who seeks glory wants to do it because of what other people will think of him.¬†His name will live on, his accomplishments,¬†his¬†triumphs. Can you see why this doesn’t work?

It’s not because it’s immoral, or egotistic, or selfish – although it might be those things. Following the call of glory, just because I am sad or in a state of loss, doesn’t heal the loss. It leads anyone who follows it chasing after things that will never, ever solve the problem itself.

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Relieve or Resolve Tension

The part of myself who was pushing himself and feeling the tension.

When you get tense, it’s probably because a part of you is pushing themselves. Maybe they’re saying things like, “Just need to keep calm, keep calm, keep calm…” “Just keep calm… maybe look at some websites, maybe do something to distract me, that’ll fix it…” “I don’t need help, or advice, or consideration or sympathy, I just need to do something…” “I need to do something… something important… crap… why isn’t it working?”

You get the idea. This side of you can get pretty worked up.

But if you question its assumptions – that it¬†needs¬†to do something, that the situation is a¬†desperate¬†one – then it can finally relax and become renewed. When you feel terrible, and tense, trying to keep pushing yourself is like running up a slippery slope while you’re emaciated.

The problems with tension always seem to come up when you seek to¬†relieve it, rather than resolve it. Then you might lean on that harmful habit of yours, run to an unfulfilling relationship, or constantly fight against the tension. But to resolve the tension, it’s important to question it.

For me, the other day, this conversation between a tense part of myself and a nurturing part resolved the tension. Now, keep in mind that for a long time I had put off actually doing Cartoon Processing during a tense moment, but this time I did. Here was the key part of the conversation:

Nurturer: “I know you think you don’t need help, but maybe I have a perspective, that, through no fault of your own, you haven’t thought of yet.”
Tense Guy: “You don’t understand.¬†My life is only about doing things that are important. If I ever don’t do things, try to – no no no taking breaks is fine. To play games, and such. Gets me back on track. But just doing nothing for too long is unacceptable.”
Nurturer: “Is that so…?”

Shortly after that question, the tension went away, and the tense side of me felt better. Ungrateful for the help, but better.

This situation showed me that sometimes certain assumptions about life, assumptions one makes inside their head, actually cause tension and need to be questioned, even assumptions that seem reasonable. Looking at the effect of those assumptions will tell you what you need to know.

I have the feeling I haven’t seen the end of this guy, or gotten to the root of tension yet, so stay tuned.