How to Encourage Others in a Crisis

Eric Paskel
by Eric Paskel
June 12, 2020

Summary: This is the ideal way to reach out to people: to reach out with the understanding that what you’re doing is a sensible act that’s backed with emotions and not an emotional act that’s rationalized into being sensible.

When trying to encourage others, or even ourselves in crisis, here is what you should ask yourself before you speak:

What is smart, what is reasonable, what is clear? What is dutiful?

First, you will notice that none of those things have anything to do with emotion. So seek out those things first, then apply your emotions onto one of those. That’s when you have magic. You’re being an adult and acting from your best self, but you’re also getting the added juice and power that comes from genuine emotion._

Here is a story that illustrates this:

He couldn’t even show his face

I saw a client for a while for home therapy sessions that we would have 2 to 3 times a week over the phone, on Zoom or FaceTime. I would call during our scheduled time, and there would be an answer. And all I would see is a white sheet and maybe a little of his dog. He couldn’t stick his face out from underneath the covers. He had convinced himself that he was worthless, unlovable, and broken.

But I always kept holding onto my own positivity. Still, I never saw his face. Every once in a while, he’d pull a cover over, and I’d catch an ear or the side of his face. And it was like that all the time, and I was deeply worried about him. I was very scared that he would take his own life.

Like clockwork, he would send similar messages through texting throughout the day. They’d be miserable, such as, “I can’t take it anymore, I want to die.”

But I hung onto the positive. The positive was that he’s texting me, reaching out, and bothered answering the phone. So I helped him see that as well. I used it: “If you really wanted to die, if you’re really that miserable or broken, you wouldn’t be wasting my time and yours. You wouldn’t be talking to me.”

I asked him what his favorite songs were and such, whatever I could do to keep him engaged. And then I had a program. When he first came out of the house for us to make an in-person connection, it was very awkward, but he did it. I had some more programs where he felt safe enough and connected enough with me that he would come out.

And after about six months of doing this and spending a lot of time with him, I got him involved in groups. After the last group, I didn’t hear from him for months and then suddenly he posted something on a group page on Facebook. I chimed in, and we started talking. The reason why we hadn’t talked was because he had taken everything we spoke about, everything he learned, and started living it. And he was so busy enjoying his life so much that he thought it was a gift not to talk with me.

Now, I was a little upset. That’s not a gift. Regardless, I was so pleased to hear from him again, that we were engaged in conversation once more. It was so pleasant to just see the pictures he posted. And the things that he said and his spirit about life was so different. And I’m telling you, when we would hang up the phone, I didn’t know what to expect from him. I really didn’t know.

But I didn’t let my own concern and fear get in the way of doing my job, which was to help him hold on to one morsel of cheerfulness, one ounce of positivity, one ounce of hope, to help remind him how full of garbage he was, that it wasn’t really him that was feeling this way, it was his mind. I pointed out and fought him every day, about how many stories and lies he told himself. They just weren’t true.

And today he’s living it up. It’s one of the most encouraging experiences I’ve ever had. So the hope, is in times of crisis, you can make your space and your experience positive, encourage others, and inspire them as well.

Encouragement that is actually helpful

When you come in and you’re trying to uplift somebody, you don’t want to become tuned into their negative channel. It’s OK to tune in for just a moment in order to understand what they’re going through. That’s called empathy. But once you’ve empathized you want to turn that channel off. Otherwise you’re going to adopt the same perspective – the same focus on their misery, disasters, and obstacles – that they are focusing on. Again, you don’t want to give them a friend in their fury. You want to be the person that takes them out of their misery.

So that is Rule Number One: You have got to stay tuned to a frequency that is clear enough for you to see through to what they are seeing, what they are creating in their heads.

And that’s something that’s not easy to do. That’s why everything comes back to using your intellect and growing because there is no shortcut to acting like an adult, taking the high road, and seeing people through hard times.

For instance, I just experienced something with a friend who died in my arms recently. It was a loss for his family members, and they will miss him dearly. But it’s not a tragedy, not to me, because I see through death. Death isn’t a tragedy any longer. That is a part of life. In fact, it’s a very important part of life. We never know what’s around the next corner, but we also are yearning to grow beyond where we’re presently at. So death is in that continuum. It’s the next journey, and it’s a beautiful thing to be able to say goodbye to this world, to be done with the things you have done.

Are you happy that you said goodbye to your toys when you were a kid? Did you really have that many hangups going from 4th grade to 5th grade to high school? You say goodbye to so many things because you are growing, so when you have that knowledge in understanding about it, you can bring that into other people’s lives.

That’s how you stay encouraging. You don’t see merely just what they’re seeing. You understand it, but you see something else as a real helper that goes with it. You can cheer someone else, introduce what they’re seeing as positive and beautiful, inspiring and releasing, and even celebratory, when someone else is seeing just misery, defeat, isolation, sadness, and terror. That’s how you stay positive, because you don’t see anything in that narrow way. You understand why they’re seeing it. But you’ve evolved enough to see something more that is all-inclusive, more awesome.

In today’s podcast I discuss this topic in greater depth, but if you really want a to know more about helping your community and being a voice of calm in a crisis, then join my free online video course called The Emotional Survival Kit.

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Eric Paskel

by Eric Paskel

As a teenager Eric hit rock bottom and ended up in a drug rehab and came out clean and sober. He eventually moved from his home town of Detroit to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Eric landed a role in the original Baywatch series and was living his dream, or so he believed. Despite his outward success, he remained lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled. His personal life and his then-professional life hit rock bottom. This prompted him to start taking Yoga classes. Eric’s hunger for wisdom and to become the best version of himself fueled him to go deeper into Yoga and study under some of India’s most respected teachers.