Monday, January 11, 2010

Boundaries of Compassion

"When everything is running smoothly...... Crisis managers create a crisis so they can manage it!" ~ Shine

Most people have met at least one crisis manager in their lives. They are, at times, fun to observe from a distance, as long as one can remain untouched by the drama they exude like cheap perfume.

I met my first crisis manager in middle school. Although she didn’t have much to complain about, this girl complained about everything under the sun. Sadly, she was so caught up into her drama that things really did happen to her. I don’t think she ever made anything up, but for a while I really thought she was the unluckiest person on the planet. Was fate really that unkind to her, or is it possible that she self-sabotaged to a degree? I thought about her a lot through the years, as she always seemed the poster child of misfortune, but as time went by, I met a few people who could give her a run for her money. To date, I think I have met four professional crisis managers. They are afflicted by everything – poor health, financial woes, betrayal and tragedies. Their afflictions don’t even spread through time, but rather they follow one another with no break in an invisible line-up.

By the time I met the fourth one, I started to really pay attention to their behaviors. They were always either elated or devastated, with no meeting point in between. The only way they could exist and be functional was if they were constantly running on high gear – anything less could not support their energy binges. The majority of us live on the safe island of the middle point; we get our blood pumping with a healthy dose of occasional drama and then go back to our normal lives. Crisis managers cannot do that. Attention feeds them and flatters them, and fills the inner void they try so desperately to hide. Intensity is the name of their game.

The only thing I found as a common denominator among the four crisis managers I’ve met is the fact that all of them had extreme childhoods. Two of them felt entirely rejected by the people they loved most, and treated with little respect and consideration – although their perception was not always based on facts, but was mostly dependent on the way they internalized information. Ultimately, all of them had come to realize that people responded differently to them whenever a crisis occurred. Crisis became their key to the door of connection to others. By dealing with the latest crisis, they sent out a shout to the world and showcased their warrior-like qualities.

We should always feel compassionate toward other people’s struggles, and be willing to sensibly help, but we still must remember that being compassionate doesn’t mean we need to jump into quicksand with them. Martyrs aren’t always heroes.

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