The training for my new position has included some valuable reading and self-assessment tools. Any time we want to truly help others, it is wise to sharpen our own self-awareness. One new term I learned this week is the “righting reflex”: the desire to fix what seems wrong with people and to set them promptly on a better course. It is easy to think we know what another person needs better than they themselves do, or that we are somehow qualified to set them straight. Sigh. We do this without self-awareness, hence the term reflex. I’m sure we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of this during our lives, especially in times of change.
Ambivalence is also a common experience on the road to change, and it is easy to get stuck there. However, if you are ambivalent, you’re one step closer to changing. I think about the ambivalence I experienced last year regarding the decision to get a full-time job. I considered how such a change would affect not only me, but my dad. How would it impact my caregiving role? When would I find time to do my writing? Could I maintain a healthy work-life balance? What kind of job would be a good fit for me? I wrestled with these questions as I carried a weight of care about my responsibilities and the need for more income. I prayed for guidance and grace. I kept my heart and my eyes open.
As I worked through my ambivalence, no one told me which way to go or what to do. My family and friends offered support, encouragement, and ideas, but allowed me the time and space to find my own way. “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they themselves have discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others” (Blaise Pascal). The more we come to recognize and trust our own inner wisdom, the easier it is to honor others’.
We are most effective as helpers when we respect the person's autonomy, affirm their strengths, and allow space for them to discover and decide their path. I received this kind of support from my family and friends as I explored job options, and when the right one came along, they cheered me on. I felt encouraged and empowered. After the rigorous interview process, Lauren said something that really struck me: “Way to show up for yourself, Mom!” Show up for myself?! Wow, I guess I did! I was bolstered by the tribe that surrounded me.
Perhaps you are in a place of ambivalence, weighing your options and the costs and benefits of a change. This can be a valuable process, but don’t get stuck there. The path out is to choose a direction and follow it, and to keep moving in the chosen direction. You have the wisdom and strength to discover, decide, and step forward. Show up for yourself! If someone you know is going through this, beware the righting reflex. Listen, encourage, trust, and respect them. Affirm their wisdom and strength to move out of ambivalence and into something new. Cheer them on.
We can all be effective helpers in our families and communities. It starts with intention and awareness. Moving through ambivalence in times of change can lead us into new fields of growth, freedom, and discovery. As we learn to do this for ourselves, we will become better at supporting others and extending the grace that holds us.
Cheers for Change,
Elisa J. Juarez