One of my graduate students last year contacted me, really discouraged. Her mother was prone to depression. She had tried to help her mother by explaining Innate Health to her and talking about how the Principles explain our thinking. Her Mother got furious with her and told her to leave her alone!
“I thought that understanding the Principles was going to help her,” my student said. She knows I love her, and I’ve always been there for her. But she turned on me when I tried to explain her thinking to her. I am so disappointed.”
Who among us hasn’t had a similar experience? We had a huge insight for ourselves and saw how simple life seems when we realize we are using the energy of Mind to create Thought and become Conscious of our own creation as our temporary reality. Create depressing thoughts and, no surprise, you are conscious of being depressed. We can’t wait to share that new knowledge with others.
The thing is, the definition and explanation is not what helped us to see life differently. It was the moment of insight, when we saw, from within, for ourselves, what was going on. What helps us to help others is knowing that such an insight is close at hand for them, and knowing better than to talk to them about the content of the thinking that’s bringing them down, or to take that thinking seriously. Getting all pompous on them and telling them how they are using their thinking against themselves, or how the content of their thinking doesn’t matter, will annoy them and do nothing to help because a low mood is an insecure mood, and when people are feeling insecure, they’re not good at listening or considering new information. They just want to feel better.
When we see how thinking works, we can feel compassion and love for someone who is suffering without experiencing any need to share the suffering, commiserate with the suffering, or even assume the suffering is real or will last. We see beyond the suffering to the fact that the person is creating it, innocently, in an insecure state of mind, without realizing how they are thinking. We know that if we address the feeling state, if we can draw the person out of insecurity into a more secure and calm feeling state, then we can talk to them about life differently.
Years ago, as I was first starting to see the Principles at work behind life, I heard Elsie Spittle talk to a group. She was relating a story about someone who had come to her in a very upset state and asked for help. Elsie related how she invited the woman in and bustled off to the kitchen to fix a lovely tea. She never inquired what was bothering the person, but simply served the tea and chatted with her about daily events. I remember thinking, “What kind of help is that? Why wasn’t she sitting her down and explaining things to her? The woman was upset and Elsie just ignored that!”
I had a lot of respect for Elsie, though, so I set those judgmental thoughts aside and kept listening. Elsie said the woman started to relax as they enjoyed the tea, and, as the woman became less tense, it occurred to Elsie to share with her how easily she can spiral down when she gets certain thoughts on her mind. Elsie told a story about that, and at the end, the woman said, “Why, that’s exactly what I do! I get hold of certain thoughts and just can’t drop them, and get all worked up about it.” And there it was: the moment of insight. Then Elsie could talk to the person as an equal, not a “counselor,” but just another human being using thinking to create reality, and they could share together how things work and laugh with each other about how easy it is to get lost in thought.
The humility and gentleness of this really touched me. What a beautiful way to be able to relate to people! To be able to see that we are all the same, and there’s no reason to be afraid of anyone else’s thoughts or to take responsibility to fix anyone seemed like such a graceful way to work with others. That was when I realized that the principles have nothing to do with the whole world of one-up, one-down, with the idea that people in the helping professions are special or hold some secret that they can give away. People who serve from the perspective of the Principles simply talk to the same health in others that they see in themselves and all people.
So what did I advise my student, who was so discouraged because her first attempt to help her mother with this new learning turned out so badly? That’s kind of a trick question because I don’t believe in giving advice. I have learned it is wiser to help guide people towards their own wisdom, advice from within.
So I asked my student, “When you talked with your Mom, were you just hanging out with her?”
“No, not really. I had just finished reading The Missing Link, and I had the idea that it helped me so much, I needed to tell my Mom about this.”
“Did you give her the book?”
“No. I just went to see her and blurted out how I was learning something in graduate school that would cure her of her depression.”
“Had you taken a few minutes to ask her how she was feeling, and if it was a good time for you to share some new things you’d been learning?”
“No. I was excited. I was sure I could help her, so I just rushed in and started … OH. Wait. I was pushing an intellectual idea on a depressed person, wasn’t I? I wasn’t giving any consideration to her state of mind. And I needed to be right; I wasn’t calm.”
“So are you still discouraged?”
“Oh, no. It was me! It was my thinking that got in the way. I need to calm down and listen before I start talking. I need to take it easy. I guess I need to see this more clearly for myself.”
By the end of the semester, the relationship between that student and her mother had changed. Instead of seeing her mother as a depressed woman who needed help, she saw her mother as an ordinary woman who sometimes got caught up in a lot of bad memories and negative thoughts about them. She lost focus on her mother’s depression and started looking to share her own present-moment enthusiasm for life, and what was possible, with her mother. Instead of sitting around the house talking about what was wrong with her mother, she started taking her mother on picnics, or to the movies, or out to visit friends. Her thinking about her mother changed, and she was able to see her mother as a healthy person who was given to depressing thinking from time to time, rather than a depressed woman who was sick and needed her help and constant attention.
In the words, again, of Sydney Banks,
“All human psyches are rooted in universal truth and no person’s psyche is better than any other’s. Only to the degree of the individual’s psychological and spiritual understanding does it appear to vary.” The Missing Link, p. 7