Becoming a Balance for Others: Are You a Counterweight?

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~Thomas Merton

Are you a “counterweight,” someone who helps balance friends and loved ones during their times of need and emotional instability? Or do you unintentionally exacerbate someone else’s emotional imbalance?

In Find Balance through a Steadier Range of Emotion, the first part of this two part series, we discussed the concept of “balance” and  how to discover and develop a stronger sense of balance within ourselves.

We also learned about scientific research that indicates that with practice our brains can actually physically rewire parts of itself and “learn” to be happier, even more “emotionally balanced.” With this possibility, we can theoretically condition the workings of our minds — our thoughts, reactions, triggers, and so on — to find a more consistent “range” of emotional balance.

Now, we ask how we can help bring others into a steadier emotional balance. One simple way to help bring balance to those whom we care about is to function as a “counterweight.” Whether a loved one or a friend is riding an unstable emotional high or a dangerous emotional low, your words and actions can help bring someone in need into a more balanced and healthier emotional state. And as Renegades, why wouldn’t we?!

Showing Compassion Without Offering “Self-Serving Sympathy”

When a friend or loved one presents a problem or recent hardship to us, the natural reaction is to show sympathy and compassion. But our reaction must depend on the situation: if the situation is one of loss of life and grievance, acting as a counterbalance is rather “black-and-white” or “cut-and-dry.” We realize that for all the hardship and suffering that our friend is enduring, as a counterbalance we must offer steadfast support, optimism, endurance, and stability to offset and support his time of uncertainty and emotional instability.

In situations that are less objective and more subjective, as with a dispute between boyfriend/girlfriend or family members, acting as a counterbalance is much more difficult. What can tend to happen in such “shades-of-gray” situations is that our sympathy and compassion can unwittingly and unintentionally exacerbate one’s emotional instability. An example:

A longtime friend of yours comes to you crying after a dispute with her boyfriend. After coming to understand the situation, you don’t believe that anyone is fully to blame: you can see shared faults from both the boyfriend and the girlfriend in the dispute.

Our natural tendency in this kind of a situation would be to sympathize with our longtime friend, even when we realize that she might be partly or wholly to blame for the altercation. In such a situation, neglecting to become a counterbalance to the friend threatens your show of support and compassion to become little else than self-serving sympathy that wrongly entrenches the friend into her unfounded position of exaggerated emotions. Is there a way that you could gently interject prudence, objectivity and reasoning rather than self-serving sympathy?

How to Balance the “Highs” Without Being a Downer

Few of us would ever want to be a counterbalance to a friend or loved one who is happy, let alone ecstatic about news they have received or something they have recently achieved. Of course, when someone we care about is experiencing happiness, there is little cause or reason to undertake the role of a “Debbie Downer,” as made infamous by the Saturday Night Live character portrayed by Rachel Dratch.

However, there are certainly instances where one will need to inject elements of simple logic, foresight, good-judgment and prudence to counterbalance a friend or loved one’s emotional high that is causing them to act irrationally. Take this scene from NBC’s television show The Office as an example of coworkers of Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) who offer discretion and reasoning as a counterbalance to their boss who believes that he already has received a job promotion based upon a mistaken assumption:

Michael: No, no, no. You know what? It’s a done deal. I basically have the job already. There’s nothing she can do to stop it now. Plus, I already sold my condo.
Oscar: Michael…
Kevin: What?
Angela: Why?
Oscar: I’m sorry, that just doesn’t make sense.
Angela: Who gave you that advice?
Kevin: Yeah, Michael you should never sell your condo…
Michael: Well I’ll have to buy another place.
Oscar: You’re not sure that you have the job.
Michael: I sold it on eBay. The buyer was very motivated, as was I. It went for eighty percent of what I paid. Sold in record time.

Happiness is About Establishing Balance

Many of us falsely assume that Happiness cannot be maintained because it requires too much intense concentration and effort to ever be plausible. As Thomas Merton stated in his quote above, happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. When we make concerted efforts to recognize our behaviors, emotional swings and triggers, we can gradually become more emotionally stable and shorten the swings of erratic emotions that we are certain to encounter from day to day.

Furthermore, as we begin to condition the workings of our minds to be more emotionally balanced, we grasp a better sense of how to provide balance for the ones we love and care about by embodying the role of a “counterweight.” Acting as a counterweight not only provides balance for others, but contributes to our collective happiness by intently helping establish emotional order, rhythm and harmony. 

Have you ever embodied the role of a “counterweight” for someone in need? How have you gone about providing balance? What techniques or strategies do you employ? Leave me a comment below!

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