Compassion is a wonderful trait but one needs to be slightly dispassionate in order to be sincere. Here’s what I mean by being dispassionate: stay calm and unbiased when someone is struggling or stuck. Here’s how you know if you’re ruffled by another’s distress. Do you feel uncomfortable? Do you try to make her feel better and ease her pain? Do you proceed to describe 50 ways to solve her problem or convince her to stop feeling that way? If so, you’re not dispassionate. You’re trying to fix her so that you feel better. It’s okay, you’re not alone. We were taught to problem-solve.
In wForum we try not to succumb to fixing people or their problems. We develop an ability to listen without interfering, to challenge someone’s thinking without imposing judgment, and the finest art of all, to sit still with someone who is struggling without advising or fixing her. This kind of neutrality requires a great deal of self-awareness.
Let me share a personal example about how ‘the neutral witness’ works in wForum. Over the past year, I’ve struggled with a difficult issue in my marriage where I have been truly stuck. My wForum listened to me and asked questions, giving me space to find my own answers by not pressing for resolution or talking me out of my feelings. In spiritual psychology, this concept is called ‘honoring the dignity of your own process.’
Not trying to fix me honors my ability to figure it out in my own way and in my own time. In wForum, as I heard myself talk about my situation month after month, I began to realize how negative and closed-minded I sounded. I could see a pattern of critical and defensive behavior and I didn’t like what I saw. I realized that the NO WAY stance I had taken was causing me great distress. In the gridlock of my fixed position, I was distancing my husband – and my being right wasn’t right for the bigger goal of my life, my happy marriage.
Maybe you can relate?
The good news is that I’m getting unstuck. I’m happier and feeling less misunderstood; I can experiment and try on a new attitude. There’s progress, not a miracle. My wForum validates my effort; it’s a process.
It can seem like a long time to achieve a personal breakthrough but in fact, a shift in awareness will happen in an instant. It’s good to have people who love you and stand by you, who hold a space for you to stumble and grow and who are there for the moment of your breakthrough. For me, that’s wForum.
– Adelaide Waters