the only way to fix the world is:

.. to stop trying to fix the world.

Tell me if this rings a bell: most of my life, especially during my growing-up years, I knew an insatiable need to fix others’ hurts, stop their pain, and generally make it all better. The closer they were to me, the more I felt their pain and thought it my duty – my purpose on earth! – to relieve them of it.

I was certainly right about the part where I “felt their pain” because – I know now – I was taking something onboard that didn’t belong to me. I was feeling their pain, without any of the rich detail of their context, their experience, their life-view. Just, the pain.

The part I never understood: once I took it into myself, it wasn’t their pain anymore. It was mine, and I’d feed it like I’d found a starving stray animal… and by feeding the pain, I was flowing all my attention to it – insolently forgetting that whatever we give our attention to is amplified. Still, I’d think this existential discomfort was theirs. And I’d try to make it all better, y’know, for them.

So there they were, having their own experience and getting whatever they needed to get out of itbeing in their own business, doin’ their thang. Perhaps having some major life-crisis or mid-level growing pain, or (most often) the little misunderstandings between people who love, but do not understand, each other.

I was. not. okay. with. that. Here I’d come, watch what was happening, and put myself in their place and imagine how painful it must be. How painful it would be for me.

Then I’d assign myself the duty of – fixing it! (Hear that bell ringing again? welcome, friend!)

The simple truth: the real reason I’d try to fix someone else’s pain was to alleviate my own discomfort.

(I cringe, thinking of it. Even the memories sting. But stinging truth always feels better in the long run than cushy lies.)

I caught myself doing this again a few days ago with someone I’ve danced this particular dance with for a very very long time. (Details are their biz and not important here. Which I get. now.)

The great kindness of experience is that it shortens the frequency and duration of visits to our old hells, and when we remember to breathe back into calm and simply observe ourselves, it’s possible to See. With a measure of compassion.

So when my old hell returned as a new fresh one, I could See, first, that the level of pain I was experiencing “on someone else’s behalf” was completely under my control.

[interesting aside, here: in this case, observing myself, I noticed that the more I tried to “solve the problem” and mentally referee for the players involved, the more actual physical pain I felt. “I’ll be the diplomat, though you never asked, though you don’t even know I know what’s going on, and get a skull-splitting headache in the process.” Now, THAT got my attention!]

I’d put myself into their business, after all. I could take myself out! (and, lordylordy – they could .. have their own experience! how nice for them!)

And. and.

By letting them have their own experience, and refusing to take their pain and make it mine, I stopped hurting… and gave them space to do the same.

Instantly, and once and for all, I saw it: I’d been increasing their pain, and my own pain, by pouring the fuel of my attention on it.

The very opposite of my heart’s kindest wish.

Now I know. And when I perceive a dear one’s pain or struggle or discomfort and feel the old tug to insert myself, to “fix” it, I ask myself this question: is my desire to help born of discomfort?

Or compassion?

love to hear your thoughts on this… please share in the comments, or private message me. thanks for being here! Kathleen.

L-ve, then share.

dreams? I got ’em. I’m talking about the while-sleeping kind. I know I have plenty – I can hear the chattering as I wake up – but, do I remember my dreams? Hear their insightful messages? Not so much. Truth is, I just feel like I need rest afterward. The other night, I tried presenting […]

are you ready to strip it off?

"Is there something sneaking up behind me?" "No, dear, just keep smiling!"

Has it been a while since you’ve loved what you’ve done with the place?

Consider this photo, if you will. Allow me to mention how accomplished and capable these individuals are: two physicists, and a famous actress! At an honors ceremony, at the Smithsonian!

But the first thing I noticed (and, I’m betting, the first thing you saw, too) was not the intended subject of the picture.

It was that wallpaper.

Eye-jarring and painful to look at. Distracting. And these fine people seem not to even notice it’s there.

Have you stopped seeing the ugly wallpaper on the walls in your life?

Have you become numb to something that just no longer works for you? Are there grungy, outdated spots in the house of your Self that you just don’t notice anymore?

When you chose that pattern it was a better idea – clean, fresh, new. In fashion. Perhaps when you started doing things “a certain way,” or relating to people, or yourself, in that particular setting, it made sense. It was right for who you were, at that time.

Wallpaper’s hard to take down once it’s up, though. When our lives or tastes or needs change, that stuff is still hanging there, getting dingy and peeling off. Getting less-than-fresh. It may seem easy to just paper over it, or paint it. Easy, but definitely not a good idea in the long run.

So, we just stop seeing the ugly wallpaper altogether.

Occasionally it’ll give us a bit of a twinge and we even consider doing some of the heavy work that’s gonna be necessary to have a calm, clear and inviting space again. A space that we feel good about sharing with others.

But we’re not ready for the heavy work, so we decide to live exist with it and say “it’s not that bad.” We stop living in that room. We stop letting others into that room.


Because we go into others’ spaces and see their ugly wallpaper, quite clearly: “holy velvet-flocked poke-in-the-eye, what were you thinking?!?” (hey, I was a kid in the 70’s – and I Have Seen It.) We know, instinctively, that if we are so distracted by the ugly stuff that we can’t see the lovely people, then… our ugly stuff is probably keeping other people from seeing the lovely us, too.

Are you trying harder and harder to get someone to see your loveliness – and can’t understand why they don’t?

Is it time to think about stripping off some wallpaper?

Yes? (“Yes.”)

That wasn’t easy, I know: my own history of “don’t go in there!!” wallpapers would’ve filled a sample book. Saying “yes” – admitting that you really do see that Something-Ugly-Right-There-Hangs – means acknowledging that there will be heavy work to come and maybe a bit of a mess during the remodeling.

Saying “yes” also does this wonderful and unexpected thing: it draws people’s eyes away from the walls. And back to lovely You.

They know that you know, and that allows you a little space to breathe. And to – gently, at your right pace – consider what comes next.

[next in this series: Should it Stay or Should It Go, Now?]