The Emotional Blur

I’ve noticed that lately that I tend to give family and friends advice when they are worried or upset about something. Most often my advice seems to ease people’s worries or give hope, so I feel as though it is appreciated.  I get a sense of satisfaction from this, but it has occurred to me that if I were to find myself in a similar situation, I would probably not take my own advice.  I feel like a hypocrite and wonder if I should stop telling people what to do and not get involved in their problems.  What do you think?

It sounds like the people close to you trust you enough with their problems to share them with you.  It also sounds like they appreciate the advice you offer them, and perhaps come to you because they value your opinion.  If, on the other hand, you were imposing your uninvited opinions and judgements on people in the disguise of friendly advice, then I would say to you that maybe, yes, you would be better off keeping your nose out of other people’s business and keeping your opinions to yourself.  But I don’t get the feeling that this is the case with you.  I would assume that the advice you offer is sensible and compassionate, and if this is the case, then your concern for other people’s welfare is commendable.

I can understand though, how useless it may feel to you if you don’t believe in your own advice enough to put it into practice for yourself.  This disability is common for lots of people, and it’s a well-known fact that it’s usually easier to give advice than to take it.  The reason that it is so easy for you to give practical, inspired advice to others is that you have less of an emotional blur in the way to prevent you from seeing simple truths that are less obvious to those affected by their circumstances.

May I suggest to you an exercise which could be useful to you when making difficult decisions:

Notice that there is a gap between perceiving/understanding a situation/problem and then you taking action to correct it.

At that point, stop yourself if you can, and observe your impulsive need to fix it, based on your emotional response to the situation.

Imagine that you are watching another person, maybe another family member (not you), in the same situation that you are in and ask yourself what advice you would give to them at that moment.

Remind yourself that you have a choice of how to react and that you don’t need to automatically choose the response that feels most familiar or satisfying.

You may choose to trust the most familiar emotional response and go against the advice you imagined for yourself. If this is the case, it’s fine.  Do what feels right, but observe what you are doing, and remind yourself that you are acting on emotional responses, not logical conclusions based on simple truths.

With practice, the process of separating yourself from the emotional attachment to decision making will become more and more familiar. Eventually you may even find that taking the rational, sensible advice that you give to others becomes the more natural choice for yourself.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong choice in any situation, just more or less chance of favourable outcomes or unpleasant consequences, plus the infinite variety of possibilities in between. In most cases the particular action itself is less important than the intention that goes into it. Be mindful of what motivates you and remember that you always have a choice.

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