Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 2004).
A healing relationship is based on awareness; in it both partners work to break old habits that promote suffering. They have to walk a fine line, just as my friend did, because compassion means that you appreciate the suffering someone else is experiencing, as well as your own. Yet at the same time there has to be detachment, making sure that suffering, no matter how real, isn’t the dominant reality. The attitudes that make for a healing relationship become part of a vision you hold for yourself and the other person.
How to Relate When Someone Else is in Pain
I have sympathy for you. I know what you’re going through.
You don’t have to feel a certain way just to make me happy.
I will help you get through this.
You don’t have to be afraid that you are driving me away.
I don’t expect you to be perfect. You aren’t letting me down.
This pain you are going through isn’t the real you.
You can have the space you need, but I won’t let you be alone.
I will be as real with you as I can be.
I won’t be afraid of you, even though you may be afraid of your pain.
I will do all I can to show you that life is still good and joy still possible.
I can’t take your pain on as my responsibility.
I won’t let you hold on to your pain—we are here to get through this.
I will take your healing as seriously as my own well-being.
As you can see, there are subtle pitfalls in these attitudes. When relating to someone in pain, you have to extend yourself and yet remain within boundaries at the same time. “I feel your pain, and yet it’s not mine” is a tricky stance; it can tip either way. You can become so involved in the pain that you turn into an enabler. Or you can hide behind your own boundaries and shut out the person who is suffering. A healing relationship maintains the proper balance.