Thoughtful advice from "Buddhist Physician" Alex Lickerman, on what to do "When Someone You Love Is Unhappy":
- Maintain appropriate boundaries. Remind yourself constantly that your loved one's unhappiness is not your own. You may become unhappy in response to their unhappiness, but your unhappiness then becomes your responsibility. You will be tempted to resolve your unhappiness by trying to resolve their unhappiness (not to mention, in a time frame that suits you), but that way leads only to frustration and resentment. Treat the two as separate things that require separate solutions.
- Allow your loved one space to be unhappy. People often become unhappy for good reasons, i.e., as a result of a blow or a loss of some kind. After a while, most people most of the time (though, it's important to note, not all the time) find their level of happiness returning to its baseline. Be patient. You often don't need to do anything at all but tolerate their dip in mood. If you're dealing with someone who dips frequently or regularly, learn to recognize the signs. Dialogue with them when they're in a good place to ask how you can best support them when they're in a bad place. Then try out their suggestion. It may work—or it may not. If it doesn't—if they don't know themselves how they should be supported—try other things until you hit on what works best.
- Give yourself space from them. When people are unhappy, being around them is difficult. In giving them space, you give yourself space as well. Don't fall into the trap of thinking they need you around all the time to handle their unhappy feelings.
- Defend your own happiness fiercely. Misery may think it loves company, but in the long term it doesn't. It's more than just all right to remain happy while someone you love is miserable: it's imperative.
- Suggest professional help. When things seem not be returning to normal, sometimes consulting a professional brings new clarity to the problem.
- Detach with love. Sometimes people are simply toxic by nature, a fact that often dawns on others around them only after time. Sometimes people refuse to take steps to make themselves feel better. As a result, sometimes you have to love them from a distance. This can be an intensely difficult decision, but sometimes it's the right one. Give yourself permission to entertain the thought and consider it seriously if consider it seriously you should.
(cf. Don't Panic, ...) - ^z - 2011-05-29