Years ago I remember reading a counseling handbook titled something to the effect of “What to do with heavy people” By “heavy” the book meant people who have some kind of emotional baggage. I don’t recall what the book said, but here’s my “take” on it.
This could be someone who doesn’t pick up social cues, someone who’s hyper-critical or someone who is manipulative. Whatever it is, his or her behavior makes life heavy and hard to handle for everyone in his environment. These kinds of people make us want to run as fast as we can in the other direction.
What’s going on when we make contact with this heaviness? We feel we can’t be ourselves around that person. We can’t emerge. Our basic need and ability to feel at home in the world is thwarted. It brings out the worst in us – all the feelings of inadequacy and fear and whatever our particular configuration of “stuff” is.
While we’re busy feeling alienated and uncomfortable and sinking deeper into our own “stuff” that this person triggers for us we’re oblivious to seeing that this person is certainly feeling even more alienated than we are.
This situation is not as impossibly hopeless as it seems. We can get in touch with and agree to put our stuff aside for the time being and put God in the center.
Now how do things look?
For one thing we’ll have some compassion. We don’t know what this person has been through. We don’t know what he’s struggling with. One thing’s for sure. He’s in pain.
What meaning can we find in this imperfect world of ours? Blind people should remind us to be thankful we can see. “Heavy” people can give us a cue to be God’s messengers here on earth. We don’t have to become best friends but we do have the power to play a pivotal role in such a person’s life. If everyone reacts based on the buttons that are pushed for them, this person won’t ever get the feedback he so dearly needs.
We can look at an emotionally challenged adult as someone with limitations, similar to how we would look at a child. If it was a child we’d know what to say – “You must be in terrible pain right now, but you can’t do this. You could hurt someone or you could hurt yourself…” By saying something along these lines the person will probably relate to us a little bit differently, not be quite so heavy as before…
Noticing our own feelings and sensations during this encounter gives us a barometer of where we’re at with our own feelings of self-worth and spiritual development. We might say “I’m not ready for this yet” and that’s okay. At least we know where we’re going.
A heavy person also serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come. “Five years ago when meeting this person I would have…but now I was able to…”
It becomes apparent that we have a responsibility, a role to play in the advancement of the world, a task, a kindness we can do. As always with kindness, what we give comes back to us.
We can find the good points in this person. Even if we don’t say anything this will already have a positive effect.
At some point it becomes clear that relating to this person is the same as relating to everyone. It’s just a difference in degree. To one extent or another every single person has something “heavy” about him. This person has a lot of heaviness. If we can find a way to put our stuff aside and put God in the center in this extreme situation we’ll do pretty well in less extreme situations.
In the end we’ll have to admit: This person has actually given me a lot!