A woman and her husband were on a boat. She saw her friend struggling in the water to be afloat. Her nose was barely above the water. She reached out and tried to grab her friend’s hand. Her hand was slippery and she was too heavy.
Her husband noticed the drowning woman wearing a weight belt. The belt was loaded with gold. It was clear that the weight of the belt was pulling her underwater. “She needs to ditch the belt!” The husband said. The drowning woman would not let go of the belt of gold.
The boat was small and had no room for another person. “I have to rescue her,” the wife said. “She needs to ditch the weight first,” the husband said.
This was not the first time they saw the woman struggling in the water. This was not the first time the wife reached out to rescue her friend. The drowning woman had never let the weight belt go.
She probably could swim, only if she didn’t have the weight belt of gold pulling her down.
“If she let the weight belt go, there are many ways to help her to swim to the shore,” the husband said.
When I was married to a passive-aggressive narcissistic husband, I moved out of our marriage three times. Every time I moved out, my ex found a way to get back and I let him back. On the third time, I finally ditched my weight belt of gold. Looking back, the weight was not made of gold. It was my fear of unknown, insecurity about living on my own, and fear of walking my life by myself. Once I ditched the weight belt, I found I could swim first tentatively and then very well.
We can't rescue somebody who wants to hold onto the weight belt of what they think is gold, knowing that it is the cause of their distress.
It is very difficult to find ourselves helpless in the face of suffering of our friends. We tend to try to rescue them. It might be more helpful to sit with our own sense of helplessness. When we befriend with our own helplessness and learn to tolerate it, then we might be able to be compassionate in the face of other’s suffering without rushing to rescue them.