Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Coping with Loved Ones in a Toxic Coma

There are people in all of our lives. Each is important but some we consider to be family. These bonds aren’t always by blood, as in our close friends or spouses. We love and care for each of them. If those loved ones are blessed enough, that love and care is returned. The return of that good will should never be the reason we are patient, generate understanding or compassion for anyone. These must be given freely, without the strings of attachment or expectation. It’s the difference between being selfish and selfless. We may not even be in direct contact with a loved one in order to wish them peace, joy and happiness. Imagine someone in a coma. We can’t have any realistic expectation of a return for our love and care for someone in such a condition. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or that we don’t love and wish them to get better.

There are other conditions and circumstances that our loved ones can be experiencing that are similar to a coma. Someone may have experienced a great loss, have been traumatized or sick from disease or injury. Mostly, we think we can see these diseases, injuries, losses and traumas very clearly in those closest to us. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. Other times, the person with the condition isn’t even aware that they are sick. In even extreme cases, people can be so unaware of how sick they are that they are capable of destructive acts, wreaking damage and potential devastation to those they love and that love them. These people are still worthy and in great need of patience, understanding and compassion. We sometimes lack experience in how to interact with them without causing even greater pain and more intense suffering as well as causing harm to ourselves in the process.

Some people are just so sick that they turn everyone into the enemy or a villain. There can be symbiotic relationships that feed on one another’s sickness. As these relationships develop, instead of gaining insight into why they are both suffering so much, they back up their dysfunctional views of themselves as well as their mutual distaste for others. This has a very isolating affect, intensifying their conditions and increasing the potential damage. They see good will as condescending, misconstrue compassion for pity. There are infinite ways sick people push away their loved ones. When someone is in a coma, we can’t be pushed away.

When we find ourselves at the end of all of that understanding, having been so patient, having really generated true compassion for a loved one in such an isolating situation, we need to begin treating them like a loved one that’s in a coma. This person is not capable of hearing us, nor capable of truly seeing us as fellow human beings sharing a common humanity. Further interaction only intensifies the hold of their conditions and isolating symbiotic relationships. Unless there is obvious evidence of injury or trauma, we even lack a mechanism where someone with authority can intervene.

Most abuse is internalized, unable to be verified by simple observation. Abuse is obvious when an arm or a leg is cut off in an angry rage. However, most abuse is emotional, as words leave no physical scars. Even bruises go away and external wounds heal. What compounds this terrible situation is the growing isolation that the relationship sustains in order to hide the dysfunction so as to not have to contend with those loved ones striving to alleviate some of the pain and comfort the suffering that they both experience.

These are such difficult situations for everyone. What do we do? We begin to treat them as if they are a loved one in a coma. We think about them, we generate compassion for what they are going through. If they were to wake up, we will be there for them, but we don’t have to remain in the room. When someone is filling their immediate environment with toxic fumes, we don’t just stay inside to reason with them. That’s idiot compassion. Instead, we open the windows, open the door and try and get out of this deadly place. We can’t force someone to leave unless they are truly incapacitated or we are strong enough to lift them up and take them out of their toxic environment. In these extreme moments, it may become necessary to discontinue an active, engaged relationship with someone in such a terrible situation. In these most difficult of interpersonal relations, we must tread and consider carefully.

There are few singular reasons to make this break with someone. It has to be a preponderance of the evidence coupled with the history of not only our interaction with this individual but also our overall understanding of the personal histories, relevant capacities and skills balanced with a personal willingness and openness to gain insight or accept guidance. We may even discover our own current situation is incompatible with this person’s toxic existence, which raises the potential damage for us. We cannot stay forever in the room with a coma patient, nor can we withstand relentless abuse and trauma from our loved ones. At some point, we really have exhausted all of our reasonable options. We can’t heal the world if we’re being actively injured by our loved ones.

If the patient doesn’t want the remedy, doesn’t even admit to the sickness, we simply cannot force them to do so. In fact, in some cases this could be highly counterproductive. We don’t have to have an active, engaged interaction to genuinely love and care for a person. We don’t have to sink our own vessel. If there’s someone on board a cruise ship hell bent on killing others or sinking the ship, you throw that person overboard to save yourself but more importantly to save others. We can throw that person a life preserver or give them a life raft, but if there is no willingness to grab hold or get into the boat, we cannot let our ship go down because of one angry and out of control person.

We must be careful to not simply think the worst of others. There are no external relationships that can be salvaged by one person alone. We can love and care for loved ones without having direct contact. We don’t have to let someone back on our ship until we become satisfied they are no longer a danger to us or others. We don’t have to let someone back in the house when that person is actively spewing toxic venom.  We can love and care for someone, even if that person is in a toxic coma.

This maybe a bit of a heavy topic. I suggest reading The True Partners on the Path

That is my blueprint/roadmap for being our best in all of our relationships.

It's an aspirational piece, but it's also within reach every day.

Have issues in your family or in your relationships?

Let me be a fresh set of eyes. Email me:

No comments:

Post a Comment