At its highest potential, helping, healing, and supporting others feels as good (if not better) to you as it does to the other person. It’s energizing, rewarding, and gives your life purpose. Being a witness to someone’s most vulnerable states, their aha moments, and and their process of self-discovery is an honor and an honorable way to live your life.
The problem is when you get hooked on the feeling of being needed. You need to be “the one” who makes it all better. The hero of the story. The rock who can survive hardship. The cup that can hold all pain and suffering.
In order to free yourself from getting hooked and subsequently burned out, you have to get very clear about what it means for you to be a helper and the relationship between your sense of self-worth and how helpful you are to someone else.
Therapists, counselors, social workers:
A sign that you might be out of equilibrium is if you find yourself constantly replaying sessions with your clients. You think about their stories over and over and over and it makes you feel incredibly sad, helpless, and small. Over time, maybe you become numb to the stories. They become a conglomerate of trauma, pain, and heartache. As you continue to hold story after story, you stop registering the emotional toll but this weird back pain pops up, you’re snappy at your co-workers, and sleep becomes spotty with anxiety-filled dreams.
Moms and moms-to-be:
One way to gauge your balance of giving and receiving is by checking in with how much brain space is occupied with worry about your baby. Worry about exposure to germs, whether he’s getting enough to eat, or if she should be rolling over by now. A mom out of equilibrium absorbs all her baby’s discomfort and frustration. She is selfless, exhausted, and resentful. Her partner can’t do anything right and most of the time she’s too ashamed to ask for help anyway. Being “Supermom” feels like mother’s guilt wrapped up in a too tight, pretty pink bow.
If you want to be someone of service, it’s time to challenge your old stories, like the “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” mantra, turn your focus inward so you can take notice of your body’s response to constant and chronic stress, and begin the process of replenishing yourself so you can be fully present for another being.
The process of self-reflection that comes with the art therapy territory means you gain awareness so you can make informed decisions about what is best for you and how you can sustainably give to others. A secondary benefit is that you will be an embodiment of skills and awareness for your clients and children, modeling for them how to take care of themselves. They will feel your presence and be comforted by your stability, clarity, and availability to truly hold space.
Unlike talking, art therapy bypasses a lot of the defenses you might normally put up and cuts through to something that’s closer to the truth. You might make yourself dizzy with the circles you talk in and then a simple image might reveal what you knew all along. When you don’t have words for your pain, art therapy speaks in metaphor so you have a new and perhaps gentler perspective on your experience. It’s this process of courting your internal landscape that makes art therapy valuable, emotional, and life-changing.
Get in touch:
To schedule an appointment or inquire about my offerings please fill out the form below. I look forward to connecting with you.