This post was written by a guest-contributer, Aleksandra Jankowska.
I know that when there is something wrong, I like to fix it. This doesn’t only apply to the socks that need mending or the toaster that inconsistently burns my toast. I have been raised in a culture and in a family in which feeling sad, angry or any of the other uncomfortable feelings we as humans often experience was avoided. Happiness was defined by the absence of pain or, at least, the perception of absence of pain. So, I became a “fixer.” Whenever a friend struggled with a relationship issue or experienced sadness, I felt a compulsion to try to fix their pain. As an adult, I have worked diligently on healing some of the old wounds that were created in my childhood. I have also worked with others to assist them in their own healing. In the process, I’ve learned that maybe, just maybe, the “fixer” approach has not been the best way to achieve resolution. The way to express my compassion to others has been to attempt to decrease their pain. I now realize that not only is this impossible, it is also not helpful.
I recently read a book that has further helped me in letting go of the “fixer” moniker– Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach. One of the things that truly resonated with me about the concept of radical acceptance can be summed up with the word allowing. So often do we either avoid and judge our feelings and experiences or strive to make them different. This avoidance and craving for the absence of a feeling leads to suffering. Radical acceptance provides an allowing of the sensation of pain, and this opening offered by radical acceptance can then create a shift or a change toward healing. I have discovered that the moment one stops fighting the impulse to fix an issue by letting go enough to allow the experience to occur, the experience of suffering has the freedom to shift and growth has the room to blossom. This allowing makes it possible for us to be in the present moment and connected to the Source.
By habitual avoidance of suffering, one pushes away the very experience that connects one to Source. Through avoidance or the pushing away of experience, one can become disconnected and, therefore, unable to connect to the tenderness that can so often have so much to teach us. The pain (whether shame, guilt, sadness or another uncomfortable experience or sensation) creates an opening. If one can soften into that pain, movement happens, and with movement, change occurs. I have since learned that sometimes simply being a witness or assisting in holding the space for the person to experience their pain is a lot more healing than attempting to “take the pain away.” Attempting to “take the pain away” not only undermines the individual’s ability to grow and change using their inner source of strength, but it also deprives them of the opportunity to experience their own healing. It is like taking the seed out of the ground with the hope that it will grow faster. The seed needs to crack and open and push through the soil to become a full-fledged blossom. I now strive to allow—to allow for my own feelings, sensations, experiences to occur. And, when I have the honor to witness someone’s inner struggle, I strive to allow them to do the same, because it is through their own movement through suffering that healing and change have the opportunity to awaken– if we only let them. One of the helpful and practical prayers that the book has offered me is the simple prayer of “May this suffering awaken compassion.” May this heart-felt intention allow me to allow others to heal, may it allow for an opening and an awakening.