How do you avoid drowning in peoples’ issues?

I received the following from one of my clients: Maurice, Just a quick question: in your practice and dealing with others, how do you deal with feelings of compassion and frustration for the suffering of others? I see the pain and suffering that my x-wife (and others I work with) are going through. It is hard for me to have feelings of compassion and wanting to help them when I am unable to. I am trying to do as much as I can for my x-wife and help with any extra funds that I can, but I also have household living expenses that need to be met. I try to give her extra funds each month, and it is not even that difficult when it is met with what seems to be an attitude of entitlement and little appreciation. I am not doing it for that anyway. Regardless of what I am able to do, it is frustrating that I cannot do much more to help alleviate the suffering and stress. Justifying that people sometimes struggle because of their choices and decisions still doesn't make it easier to deal with. I see it with co-workers too who have their own individual struggles. How are you able to set aside the pain that you see from others and not get pulled down by limitations on helping them? My Reply I was feeling this way early in my practice and was sharing my angst with God when he invited me to go for a walk with Him. We went for a walk up Farmington canyon all the way to the top where the 2 giant "golf balls" sit. (as I remember, this trip was really fast). I was granted x-ray vision looking into the homes of the people of Davis county, seeing the good and the bad, the happy and sad, and me down there working in my office desperately trying to make a difference. I was invited to look again, and this time the only difference was that I wasn't there, and it didn't seem like there was much difference. The next few comments that came from God surprised me, but his sarcasm didn't (he tends to communicate with me in my own language sometimes). Instead of addressing my anxiety and concerns, he went straight for my arrogance! I heard Him say, "Wow Maurice, you really think you are important! I wonder how I ever could have survived before you therapists came along?" The message I came away with was that the weight of the world is not on my shoulders, but on God's shoulders. I have been invited to work in the garden. Any effort I make benefits me and is nice for him, but if I didn't do the work, he would have found somebody else. So in answer to your question, I start each day with an understanding of the purpose of this planet, and whose planet it is. I remember who I am, and enthusiastic garden worker! Every time someone shows up in my office (which is a surprise sometimes that people come back with how rude and insensitive I can be at times), I excitedly pull out my little shovel, hoe and rake and work as hard as I can for 1 hour in hopes of making the smallest difference. Then, as with any garden, the miracles happen. I watch people grow, not because of the work I did, but because of good soil, plenty of water, and a warm sun. And I watch the goodness in people grow, because hardly ever in my work, do I meet a truly evil person. Almost everybody I meet is a good person trying to do good, and struggling to learn how to without being so clumsy that they kick someone else in the shins. I am sad when I am not enough. At times it is scary when I am not enough because, even recently, I have a client who is very serious about suicide, and I send them a text message and wonder if they will answer back. If they don't, which has happened, I rest my mind knowing that one person is done with the war of life on this planet. This I pick up my shovel, hoe and rake, and go to work again. As did General Mormon, from the end of the Book of Mormon, he did not fight (and farm) because he thought he would win. He fought (and farmed) because he was a fighter and a farmer. This is what I do.

About Maurice W. Harker, LPC

Director of Life Changing Services, Director of Sons of Helaman, Facilitator of the WORTH group, Consultant for the Daughters of Light program.