There’s a game we play with our children. Little Johnny or Janice fall and hurt themselves and we give them a kiss and “make it all better”. It’s a good game and a piece of magic, because the kiss/hug does, indeed, make it better. The game is that the parent is turning off the pain, but in fact it is the child who is learning to do that, giving themselves permission not to mind, not to feel bad/hurt, at a set signal.
Pain is not painful, after all, it is… only a message: and that message can be switched off when we don’t think we need it any more.
The game is only for children, though.
When I was training in various therapies, many students had difficult things come up from earlier in their lives, and quite often they would dissolve into tears or be in a very emotional state. At these moments, certain others would come forward, wanting to take the sufferer in their arms and “kiss it better”. Such people we came to know as Rescuers (nothing to do with flying mice!), and we came to understand also that “rescuing” is not healthy, for it is playing adult and child once more… and these students were ALL adults.
In psychology, there is a model called Transactional Analysis. It suggests that in all interactions between adults there are five possible roles to play:
Only the “adult” role is healthy, for the adult role allows all players to be equal and for each to take full responsibility for their journey, letting the others around do the same for themselves. The other roles are all “sticky”: they create a dynamic where people are bound together in a pretence of need, bound with invisible energy cords and bound by that old game, that associates pain with a hug and pretends that only when another allows us, can we turn off our pain. Each of the non-adult roles depends on manipulating another person into a corresponding unhealthy role. The Unhappy Child, for example, is always nudging their loved ones and acquaintances into adopting one of the Parent Roles: to kiss it better or to rebuke them.
In contrast, the “adult” role is clean. Nothing sticky can attach to it. It holds a space and means that the other person must also hold a corresponding space, a space where they write their own story.
So, when you see a fellow adult in tears, misery, by all means listen, if you have the will to do so, be gentle, even be understanding. But do not pretend you can “kiss it better”. The most precious healing gift you can give that person is respect for their ability to heal their own pain, to turn the page to a brighter picture.
This is called Love