This post is inspired by an entry from my training journal in which I was challenged to provide support to another member of the group. The entry itself doesn’t appear in this blog although I did comment on it in another post, ‘Be Firm With People & Contribute’. The following paragraph is an extract from the unpublished entry:
We had a brief chat and he left feeling excited about the new life he has before him. He seemed resolute about the changes he wishes to make to his life. Unfortunately, he feels resolute after every group, but still he makes the same fuck-ups. Only time will tell. He has been told enough times what he needs to do. The rest is up to him.
[Karaj: Telling him is nagging. Do not assess like this. See what you can do so that he is not let off the hook.]
The point Karaj is making with his feedback is an important one. Support is not always easy to provide. In our frustration we can easily find a justification for giving up on someone. Which is why it is always necessary to return to our original intention. If that intention is to make ourselves feel better by watching someone fail, then there are plenty of opportunities to do so. It is easy to offer our support and make convincing gestures in that direction, only to turn our backs when things get difficult.
It is more challenging to remain firm and return time and again to the original intention, especially when the individual’s (as well as our own) script exerts itself with all the familiarity and force of habit. In the same way, it can be a challenge for us to accept the kind of support we need in order to progress. Learning to provide and to accept appropriate support is essential to personal growth.
In ‘The Way of Transformation‘, von Dürckheim explains that when we are serious about our development, we are better off seeking out the people who will challenge us to grow, rather than allow our old patterns to persist:
The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a “raft that leads to the far shore”.
Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim
I was faced with a situation in late 2003 which reminded me of the full passage (there is more here). At the end of my training I was keen to return to Germany. It was not an easy time for me, as will become apparent when the relevant journals are published here in 2014, and I was reliant on my close friend, Francis, to provide me with a place to stay; a quiet space where I could begin to process all I had learnt and experienced under Karaj’s tutelage.
Unfortunately, we had not had any contact for 18 months and prior to calling him I had reasoned that, in accordance with von Dürckheim’s writing, the best thing he could do for me was to turn me away. But he didn’t. Unbeknown to me he had reached a conclusion of his own, months before my call. He had asked himself whether he would welcome me back, if I ever returned. His answer to himself had been ‘yes’, and his answer to me when I asked was the same.
So, is the best kind of support to challenge people or allow them space? Both are possible, provided the intention is the right one: to support one another in discovering, learning and growing. As long as the other person’s intention is to grow, then it is our job to do whatever is needed to facilitate that goal. If it means being unyielding, then that is what we do; if it means being quiet, then we remain quiet. Only when we examine our own motives and intentions can we act accordingly.
Francis died two years after my return to Germany, so I am glad we had the extra time together. We were friends for ten years and I was grateful for his support on many an occasion throughout that time, but one of the most meaningful contributions he made to my life was when he re-examined his own standpoint and concluded that our friendship was worth his continued commitment and my continued presence. I was grateful then, and I remain so.
Support comes in different forms. It doesn’t matter whether our commitment is firm or friendly, vociferous or silent, challenging or reassuring. What is important is that we support each other fully. When we do that, with an awareness of intentions and a clarity of purpose, we create the opportunity for growth. For each other.