How Personal Crisis Transformed my Practice as a Helping Professional
My career has always been of deep importance to me. Even when I couldn’t articulate it, on some level, I’ve always known that it was a part of my soul’s journey to engage in work that felt meaningful to me. It had to matter, by my standards.
I knew early on in life what I wanted to do vocationally. I read a book when I was 15 years old that illuminated a spark of inspiration to work with people and that spark has grown into a wildfire over the past 35 years. There was many times over the years that the spark was dimmed and the fire was more like smoldering embers, but it has always been there.
My approach to my work as a helping professional has shifted immensely since I first began. What I originally believed to be my role has been flipped on its head more than once and has moved more deeply into my soul providing a roadmap towards a deeper sense of purpose.
During one particularly challenging time in my life, I came face to face with parts of myself that could not be contained in a tidy package and left in a box only to be opened when I returned from work at the end of the day. It was too intense to be compartmentalized and I know now that it was not meant to be. It was meant to break me open and move me towards deeper levels of personal responsibility and ultimately freedom. There is truth to that idea that we often breakdown in order to break through.
It is about me
I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to be able to help others when I was clearly struggling to help myself. I had always subscribed to the idea that my role as a helping professional was not about me – it was about the people I was trying to help.
I learned that while it was true that my purpose in my role as a helping professional was about being of service to others, I couldn’t really do that without taking myself into consideration. In fact, the more I tried to suppress my personal experience, the less effective I was in my interactions with others.
If I were in denial about my feelings, ignoring my needs, escaping my life, it would not be possible to be present or engaged with anyone else. Having compassion for myself and attending to my own life had to become a priority if I was to be of service to others.
Beyond this realization, I learned that I could take this a step further. It isn’t only in times of distress that a sense of self-connection is important. It has also fostered my ability to contribute more authentically from a place of knowing myself and integrating who I am with what I do in the world. For me, this is where the fun began – and the growth emerged.
We cannot deny that there is a connection between who we are personally and what we do professionally. If we deny this, it spills over into our lives in ways that feel unhealthy and unmanageable. If we acknowledge it, we can manage the integration of the personal and professional that leads us to deeper fulfillment and greater service.
I have become more aware of our shared humanity. Other people are not the only ones with problems and struggles. And I am not the only one with resources and strengths. We all possess these traits and qualities. Many of the struggles I witnessed in the lives of those I supported were not that different from the struggles I experienced in my own life.
We can use this awareness as a point of connection. Deep understanding and greater capacity for empathy are available when we focus on what joins us as opposed to what separates.
Facing my own struggles and fears in an honest way felt vulnerable at first. But, over time, I realized that I had greater access to courage and ultimately a sense of freedom than I would have recognized had I continued to pretend that everything was just fine.
I noticed how I had a tendency at times to make people “different” from me when their circumstances either scared or confused me. “Well, that’s them and this is me – that won’t happen to me.” I think this is a common response when we don’t understand or are afraid of certain experiences. There can be a tendency to want to move away from it when what we really need is to go right into it. If I am not able to immerse myself in my own emotional stew, how can I bear witness effectively to another’s emotional journey?
I began to see how important it was to feel understood, to feel heard, to feel supported and to be seen as capable.
You may have heard me talk about the energy of “compassionate curiosity” in previous posts. It was during personal crisis that I began to learn what this would mean in my own life. How could I get curious about what was happening when all I really wanted to do was get as far away from it as I could? It became one of many opportunities to deepen my capacity for self-love and the choices I made from that place changed everything.
I learned that when I am true to myself and created space for my authentic feelings, the emotional process became easier. I learned that when I spoke my truth and asked for what I needed, I was fully supported. As I became gentler with myself, I was able to be more unconditional with others. I experienced freedom.
How compassionate are you with yourself? Do you approach your challenges from a place of understanding or judgment? Can you become curious about your life, your struggles, and your achievements? Or do you prefer to just “fix” them, sweep them under the rug and move on?
Compassionate curiosity opens a door to deeper understanding and acceptance of who you are and how you perceive others. This is the kind of climate that encourages growth and healing.
Let’s get started!
Can you recall a time in your life when faced with a personal crisis you learned something that expanded your capacity for Service? I’m all ears!
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