I was lucky enough to be invited to my daughter's first training session for a group of her co-workers. She's working on her graduate degree and saw some applicability of what's she's been studying to the welfare of the people she works with. So the insightful managers in her unit agreed to let her conduct a class. Turns out she's a natural in front of a room.
So, the back story is that she's a social worker, and the topic of her thesis boils down to the social worker's perception of the role they play in order to be the most helpful AND avoid what is called compassion fatigue--caring too much.
The terms my daughter uses to describe the roles professionals generally play when dealing with tough and numerous clients are that of expert, savior or facilitator. Most often compassion fatigue is caused in part by what role the helper perceives is theirs, plus how well whatever they do works in the end. Helpers can be:
Experts--someone with all the answers, here to give advice and see that things are done according to the expert view.
Saviors--someone who is there to save others; make everything better for those who believe.
Facilitators--someone who is there to help people help themselves find the way.
It can't be just me that sees a correlation between these roles for social workers and roles we assume with friends and family on any given day. When we play the expert we are bound to give everyone we know advice for how they should do this and that and how they should live their lives if they'll sit still long enough to hear it. When we are savior we are bound to give until it hurts. The only role that makes sense is that of facilitator--one who helps others figure out their own problems and solutions.
What does this have to do with change? Making change doesn't make sense unless it fits into the values of the one who's changing. The more time you spend on other people's lives, the less amount of time you have to spend on your own. No one is an expert in anyone else's life. No one can be our savior if we aren't able to save ourselves. The only logical and compassionate role we can all play is that of facilitator--walking alongside and letting others figure out their own lives.
What we get is more time to work on your own stuff. Too bad, though, other people's problems are so much easier and quicker to solve.