When Someone Close To Us Is Struggling

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What to do when someone close to us is struggling in life?

We have tried to help them as best as we can, with ideas, support and practical help, but they don’t “get it”. Or maybe we are not even in contact with them to do that much.

It can be painful watching them suffer, especially if we feel there are things “out there” that they could find helpful, but they aren’t interested.

A proverb featuring a horse and water might spring to mind.

For a long time I’ve thought that the best thing we can do for people close to us (or anyone, really) is to be the very best that we can. To be as bright and shiny and successful at living as we can be… so we provide an example.

Or more accurately, people connected with us will sense the fact we are expanding and growing, and as long as they are even a little bit open to growth, will align themselves with this energy and change in the ways they personally need to for them to grow. This applies even if we are not in contact with them.

The ways they develop may well be quite different to the ways we ourselves are developing… they might be subtly inspired by the success of our writing projects, and take up exercising, for example. Or they may do some strange thing we would never have thought of. They will have caught our energy, though.

I’ve been very comforted over the years by seeing things this way when I have been distressed by the suffering of people close to me. This gives me something I can do! And a sense of peace. I can get on with my life, making it as great as I possibly can, knowing that this is the very best thing I can do for the people I love.

Comments are very welcome! Connectedly yours – Robin

37 thoughts on “When Someone Close To Us Is Struggling

  1. Marelisa

    Hi Robin: I do think that people who are doing well have a tendency to pull up those around them. So by doing well, by being happy, you are helping all those you come into contact with. At the same time, sometimes people need concrete tools to help them out of a funk, such as a loan, a place to stay, access to positive books, and so on. You just have to make sure that you don’t allow others to drain you with their needs, because that doesn’t do anyone any good.
    .-= Marelisa´s last blog ..24 Productivity Tips From the Best Productivity Blogs =-.

  2. Miguel de Luis

    Hi Robin, sometimes I worry about something I call the BMW effect. It surprised me when I was visiting Romania. It was August and many immigrants returned home for the holidays, a few of them in their second hand BMW cars.
    To people struggling on €200 or less per month it was an irresistible call.
    But what it was not seen it’s that the circumstances that made the success possible had changed, that was great a few years ago might not be the best solution right now. That what worked for me does not need to work for you
    See what I mean?
    .-= Miguel de Luis´s last blog ..You loved me =-.

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  4. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    Oh I do love this topic! (smile) I agree with what you said: we can only ever control ourselves or our own energies. Other people have to make a choice whether or not they want to end their own suffering by making new choices. And if we’re living to our highest right, we’re an example to them.
    Well, said, Robin!
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last blog ..Feeling Prosperous =-.

  5. Betsy Wuebker

    Hi Robin – I’m finding it interesting that most of the comments reference trying to help someone and getting sucked into the vortex. (Well, that’s my description of it, anyway).

    We’ve had a lot of discussion on this recently in our family. There are those whose motivation levels aren’t in sync with our own, and, sadly, there are a few adults in the extended family who expect to be cared for with little to no reciprocation. So ours is not distress at suffering as much as it is impatience with underachievers and attitudes. After years (in some instances) of coming to the rescue we’ve just stopped. And there’s been a lot of anger and resentment because we have cut the cord.

    I think the best thing you can do for someone is to awaken them to opportunities. I wish leading by example in our own lives would motivate some of those I mention. Instead, there is more stubborn envy and lack of motivation than I would expect. It’s an interesting journey in human nature, and a shameful waste in some cases.

    Thought-provoking, Robin. Thanks!
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..THROUGH A GLASS, GRIMLY =-.

  6. Dot

    I’ve had to deal with this issue throughout my life, and I started out being a control freak. I’ve learned the hard way that I only have control over myself, and even then, not always. I agree with Betsy — sometimes “tough love” is what’s necessary, even though it triggers anger and hatred at first.

    “…people connected with us will sense the fact we are expanding and growing, and as long as they are even a little bit open to growth, will align themselves with this energy and change in the ways they personally need to for them to grow.” This is expressed in a lovely way. I agree with other commenters that it can just as easily trigger envy, resentment or the feeling that you owe them something because you’re obviously not suffering they way they are.

    Now I try to handle these situations by expressing my care for the person, though sometimes that care comes in the form of saying no over and over, firmly, and by praying. Even for those of us who aren’t sure anybody is listening, science has shown that prayer helps those who are sick. It may be the caring that’s expressed, or a subconscious awareness of the caring, or an energy transfer, or even a supreme being stepping in (though why would they refuse to step in without being asked?), but apparently it helps.
    .-= Dot´s last blog ..Comment on Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes by Jannie Funster =-.

  7. Kathy Dobson

    Hi Robin…
    You’ve gotten some awesome comments on your post. Such enlightened beings visit here!
    I agree with you…just be the best you can be…and, most importantly, always be true to yourself. Teaching by example. It is what you do that teaches/that matters, not what you say. Lifting spirits by being JOYful, surrounding the individual with LOVE. Just as Ghandi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
    The way I feel is this:
    If we really understand that this is ONE movement forward and not a lot of individual programs we can much more easily accept what we perceive as suffering. If everything is God, then there really is no such thing as suffering, it is a label we have placed on it because we see things separately. If we understand the concept of the WHOLE then we understand that whatever our loved ones or friends are experiencing (no matter what label we choose to give it) they are exactly where they need to be (exactly where God wants them) and everything is contributing to the whole. EVERYTHING NO MATTER WHAT LABEL YOU CHOOSE TO GIVE IT CONTRIBUTES TO THE EXPERIENCE OF THE WHOLE and no experience is of greater value than another.

    Maybe if we quit throwing negative labels on things…we would stop creating negative. After all, it wasn’t a negative until we placed a value on it. But one thing for sure…on the other end of that negative is a positive…and, someone or something is experiencing a positive from the same situation. You can’t have one without the other!
    So, what I do is surround the person with love and light and ask for them to have clarity and understanding. You can’t give anymore than that. And, just be there to give that hug when needed 😉
    (Sorry my comment is so long Robin…you just open the door with your interesting posts!)
    By the way, I’ve opened the doors to my Physically Immortal blog. I’ve only posted once, so there is not a lot of content and I have lots of work to do on the “look.” But if anyone wants to have a peak, here it is:
    .-= Kathy Dobson´s last blog ..Crazy Cash Membership Sites =-.

  8. Akemi - Yes to Me

    As you know, Robin, I just posted my thoughts on what we call “bad” things happening to us. The way I see it is there is no such thing like bad things — they are all good despite the appearance. So if you friend (or anyone really) is “struggling”, I wouldn’t try to change that — that would be like arrogance. I just love them the way they are now.

    Looking at other comments, I guess I’m saying the same thing Kathy just said.
    .-= Akemi – Yes to Me´s last blog ..Interview With Dr Janni Lloyd On Physical Immortality =-.

  9. Lisa (mommymystic)

    Robin, well, another commenter in agreement here! Especially with family, sometimes advice or overt offers of help create more resentment than love (or is that just MY family??:-) People need to come to their own understandings and lessons, and per Kathy and Akemi’s points, perhaps seeing something as negative is just a limited view anyway. I think if we can feel compassion, without judgment, others feel that, and then there’s space and energy for them to go through their own process towards a new understanding. And the energy and example things are key. I know I have been very inspired by people around me at times who clearly had managed to make positive changes in their lives. So there is nothing better for others than manifesting our own dreams. Thanks for a lovely and hearfelt post.
    .-= Lisa (mommymystic)´s last blog ..Musings on PEACE, in Honor of International Peace Day =-.

  10. Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching

    Hi Robin — yes, I used to be skeptical of the idea that my personal transformation could be a gift to others, until some people started telling me that they felt calm in my presence, and I realized how much of an effect just my inner state has on the world around me.

  11. Ribbon

    I have mixed feelings about this topic. I’m not sure that there is a blanket solution.
    My approach to this varies depending on the nature of the distress and the individual concerned.
    Certainly I focus on living to the best of my abilities.
    I like to help myself so I in turn can help others.

    I did a brief stint as a lifeline counsellor and found it to be overwhelming. The experience taught me a lot about myself and others.

    best wishes always
    Ribbon 😉

  12. Robin

    @Marelisa – yes, very true.
    @Barbara – I like your guardian angel approach, Barbara!
    @Miguel – our paths are all so unique, aren’t they?
    @Megan – I think you may have said this quite well yourself! 😉
    @Jannie – putting our energies into where we can make a difference sounds good to me!
    @Walter – yes, I think so.
    @Tess – that’s a good idea!
    @Betsy – I’m wondering if maybe those people you mention might be following your example, but are expanding in ways you don’t see? (because their ways are not your path so you don’t relate to it?) Just a thought. Even saying no to them would be a good example for them, if that is expansion for you, I think.
    @Dot – good points, Dot. I think if saying no is coming from being true to ourselves, then the person will unconsciously pick up on your energy and is more likely to be true to themselves – at some point.
    @Kathy – thanks for your thoughts, Kathy. I’m very pleased to see your blog is up!
    @Akemi – yes – and it’s interesting that we can choose the way we see things, too, I think.
    @Lisa – thanks Lisa! I love your “I think if we can feel compassion, without judgment, others feel that, and then there’s space and energy for them to go through their own process towards a new understanding”.
    @Chris – that’s very interesting, Chris!
    @Mama Zen – thanks MZ! I really appreciate it.
    @Mark – ain’t it the truth?
    @Ribbon – hi Ribbon – I actually don’t think it is simple for many situations – my approach varies, too.

  13. Evelyn Lim

    I cannot agree more about the need to let go in becoming overly involved in someone else’s drama. I have also found that when there are others “suffering” around me, they are also mirroring the parts that I need to work on myself. Instead of judging them, I use these parts to question myself.

    As you are already aware, I am on a break. I have been using my time to journey inwards. For a while, it seems as if I am putting myself through immense “suffering” by going through an intense self-inquiry process. Others will probably think that I am crazy to put everything to a halt while I take the time to meditate. However, I am learning that I am able to discern so much more.

    Suffering is very much an illusion. The reality that we believe that we are in is not real. It has no permanence. There is no better time to awake from this deep sleep of ours than now.
    .-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..Break From Blogging =-.

  14. Barbara Swafford

    Hi Robin,

    As I was reading the comments I kept nodding “yes”. In some cases, a hand up is all someone needs (just to get them over a bump), and with others, we have to just be a positive influence in their lives and hope they follow suit, and not “help” them.

    I see it as being case by case as everyone is so different, but our positive energy will definitely be a plus.
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Write Responsibly Right From The Start =-.

  15. Davina

    Hi Robin. I agree. So important to focus on the self and strengthen WHO we are. The stronger we are within ourselves the less we see circumstances as “struggles”. And I think Walter’s comment is brilliant. We have to learn through our mistakes and yes, yes… when the student is ready the master will appear. Sometimes that master is US.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..Remembering a Friend =-.

  16. Sonia

    Hi Robin, great post! It is amazing how the company you keep can either make you or break you depending on their energy. I use to be unknowingly surrounded by negative people when i was younger who would do nothing but complain and criticise, and i used to wonder why i wasn’t happy within myself. A turning point came in my life where i found myself hanging around with more upbeat people who always looked at the glass half full and would make the best out of anything. That attitude and energy has now rubbed off onto me and no matter how bad things get i’ve now adapted the “always look on the bright side of things” attitude, which always helps me to see light at the end of the tunnel and get through my struggles!
    .-= Sonia´s last blog ..Sex Before Marriage: Should I Or Shouldn’t I? =-.

  17. Nadia - Happy Lotus

    Hi Robin,

    So many thoughts come to mind upon reading your post and the comments. My belief is that if someone is suffering, I am willing to listen to their story and let them vent. I do try to show another perspective which usually is rooted in spirituality. As Evelyn said, our judgments are really projections of our own issues and I share that philosophy with others.

    Based on experience, people usually like to think that they are in the “right” and that their suffering is a result of the “wrong” actions of another. Most of the time, my advice is ignored because many people want to feel like they were a victim of injustice which only brings more suffering.

    As everyone else said, when we carry ourselves with joy and harmony, it does provide an example of another way of being. That will plant a seed in someone’s mind that possibly there is a way to overcome suffering.
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..The September Issue of My Life =-.

  18. Robin

    @Evelyn – you write very powerfully, Evelyn. Taking time to go inward makes sense to me! And I love the way you describe our reality – I agree very much. Let’s embrace a new one!
    @BeTrulyHappy – hi and welcome to this blog. Glad you liked that bit!
    @Barbara – yes – being sensitive to the occasion will certainly help, I’m sure.
    @Sonia – Hi there Sonia and welcome! That all sounds wonderful!
    @Tom – well said – it all counts. Thanks for this.
    @Nadia – Hi there Nadia and welcome! I agree too, that what we see in others is always our own projections. I love your conclusions!

  19. Keith

    Hello Robin!

    You have brought up an extremely useful topic. I, too, hate to see people suffer, and it becomes especially painful when it is those closest to me. I am very empathetic anyway and it can be difficult. I like your advice (and Tess also offered great advice in her comment) that one of the best things we can do is to be all that we can be, to be an example of a life lived with gratitude and joy.

    This is really useful, thank you so much. 🙂
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Joy In The Journey =-.

  20. Jenny Mannion

    Hi Robin,

    Such an important topic and one I hear often when people come to me about trouble in a relationship. Many feel THEY can save someone or it is their job to do so.. to “show someone the light”. I am in agreement with Nadia, I will let someone vent and I love to listen and contemplate but do not offer advice unless asked. I feel we are all on our all journey and sometimes what might seem like struggle is the HUGEST opportunity we have to learn. I am with you, become the example and be the best person you can be. Love people for who they ARE not who you might perceive them to turn into if this “struggle” is over.

    Lovely post Robin and you are a shining example for many. 🙂

    .-= Jenny Mannion´s last blog ..You are More than the Roles You Play =-.


    Hi Robin! When someone close to us suffers, we should have more reserve energy to be able to provide a healing effect for the both of you, because somehow, you are connected. Also, it isn’t enough that we show them we are happy, we should be able to let them know that we are here for them, and better yet, that we are one with them. We should have wisdom and be able to share our joys with them without disrespecting the sorrow that they currently bear in the heart.
    .-= I TAKE OFF THE MASK´s last blog ..What If I’m Afraid to Love? =-.

  22. Ribbon

    Hi Robin… me again 🙂

    I have nominated you for an award over at my place 🙂
    just a little fun and wishing for people to visit with you
    x ribbon
    .-= Ribbon´s last blog ..Jewel Box =-.

  23. Robin

    @Keith – hi there Keith and welcome to this blog! Yes – some of us are more naturally empathetic than others, and need to be more mindful of how we are reacting. I’m glad you like it.
    @Jenny – thanks for the stumble, Jen. Struggles are indeed opportunities – thanks for the compliment!
    @I TAKE OFF THE MASK – hi and welcome! That sounds like a very good approach, to me.
    @Ribbon – thanks for the award! I’m planning to start a page of them – love your jewel box idea.

  24. Giovanna Garcia

    Hi Robin,
    It is very hard to watch our loveones going through hard time. I think it is the hardest part for us to learn what is in our power and what isn’t. We can be their when they need us and help them in the way that is best for them, instead of doing what will make us feel better quickly…
    Thank you for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action
    .-= Giovanna Garcia´s last blog ..Strong like steel! =-.

  25. Jeanne

    Robin, I’ve had to read and re-read both your post and all the comments, because — holy crap, I HAVE one of those adult relatives who believes he was born to fail. He’s always come to me asking for advice, suggestions, money, etc — and I’ve given all of the above, countless times, only to have him say “but that won’t work because” excuse after excuse etc.

    As much as it pained me, I finally had to change the dance steps in this relationship and become a distant observer. I’ve felt guilty about this from time to time, but it was very much for me as well as for him — I was allowing his chronic distress to suck me dry. Now I know that being the best me is enough. I think.
    .-= Jeanne´s last blog ..I Gotta Stop It, Already! =-.

  26. Mike Foster

    Besides trying to lead by example, interfering is not the way to go. I discovered this while watching my son, as he became a man, make many of the same mistakes that I made. At first I tried to stop him, help him, change him, then realized that everyone, no matter how painful it is to witness, must learn themselves, even if it entails making obvious (to us) mistakes in the process.

    .-= Mike Foster´s last blog ..Landscape Escape =-.

  27. Patricia

    I so enjoyed reading this post and all your comments tonight. I do not think I have anything to add except that as a person who absorbs others emotions – I sometimes feel things too deeply and need to remove myself in order to figure out the best response or comment. When I remove myself, I can figure out whether it is my emotion or their emotion and this is helpful.
    I used to feel guilty when I passed beggars on the street, now there are so many and I know I have given my resources and energy to once a month help cook a good meal and support for the shelter projects and health care. I can let go at the street corner.

  28. Robin

    @Giovanna – I like your point about us seeing what is within our power – thanks
    @Jeanne – ha ha you are so funny! Glad you are sticking to your guns.
    @Mike – yes – everyone must learn themselves – so true.
    @Patricia – yes, I know what you are saying about feeling for other people too deeply (I’m similar).

  29. anthony

    Yes, we can be an example of possibilities. However, when someone we love continues to decline how do you handle the pain of their suffering. I can say, “its their choice” but it doesn’t make me feel better, maybe deny my emotions but that is not a solution. Its great to think positive, behave positive, but when you see someone you love spiraling down into depression, anger and not able to believe in any outcome but doom and gloom, what do you do. Tough love is familiar but it is very difficult. Does the other person suffer because of choice or because he/she sees no options to their life for improvement.

    If suffering is an illusion (as one person says) then so is success or joy.

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