This blog explores “talking someone off the ledge” and why the traditional way women help can deter someone’s healing process. As an example, I’m sharing a short story about how friends chose not to help me and what they did instead.

You’ve likely heard a version of this term, “talking someone off the ledge.” It means relieving someone’s pain, worries, or concerns after they’ve experienced a challenging situation or in the movies – it usually means talking a potential jumper off the literal ledge. Of course, if someone’s life is in danger, that is a ledge to be talked down from.

However, for ledges walked due to exploding emotional mountains (not life or death) – what if you left the person there?

Oh, does this feel uncomfortable?

Here’s why: 
Women are innately nourishers, givers, and pleasers, and women excel at fixing and caretaking. If you’re a codependent – your happiness depends on the other person being happy.

Allow me to explain with a short story.

Towards the end of my sabbatical year in 2016, and after countless conversations with women about overwhelm, an idea formed and grew into a “new business” platform – Do Less, Live More!

I was excited. I’d come across only one other person with this specific niche. It was mine, it was unique, and it was special. I was poised for success (so I thought)! My website was built, and I was ready to put it out to the world.

And then this happened…

An email arrived from someone I know, announcing her new focus of “Doing Less” to her hundreds of thousands of email subscribers (at that time, I had 200 on my email list).

I was crushed – absolutely crushed! I went from excitement speed 60 to zero in less than 5-seconds. I curled up in a ball and cried my eyes out. I was a failure. Not good enough. Not special enough. And she’s much younger than me, so add to my list “I’m not wise enough.”

As luck would have it, a friend was visiting town, staying with another friend. They both got on the phone with me, and I sputtered through tears, and “shame-full-y” said, “I feel like I’m whining.” Did they talk me off my ledge? Oh, heck no!

Instead, they answered with, “You are whining; stay with it; there are lessons to be learned.” No pacifying, no fixing, and no coddling. But there was fierce support. These two women, who had walked the ledge many times themselves, held space for me, allowing me to feel, to heal.

Did I want to feel what I was feeling? No, not really! I wanted to be told I was “enough” that I was “special.” I wanted to be told all the things my mother never told me.

Ah ha, and there it is – my intense response was a “trauma response.” My ability to cope was diminished by a flood of feelings that undermined my sense of self. But, as I crawled along my ledge, understanding began to emerge.

I was crushed for two reasons: 

 #1: My unmet need of wanting to be seen, appreciated, and special in my mother’s eyes (stemming from childhood emotional abuse).

#2: Unhealed shame (because of said abuse). Brené Brown says, “shame is a warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed and not good enough.” Oh, does it ever!

Had my friends brought out the fire brigade and doused me with cool healing waters, I wouldn’t have met my ‘shame,’ and building my eventual foundation of joy would have been derailed. 

Instead, these women offered me the opportunity to be seen and heard but didn’t pacify me. They held me in love, and they held me capable of navigating from meltdown to healing insight without trying to “fix” me. They also checked in often, offering a balancing hand as I walked the ledge.


“Shame cuts deep; it feeds “not enough,” self-doubt, self-comparison, and the belief that we are flawed and, therefore, unworthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown  


From experience, I can unequivocally say, “sweeping soul-crushing moments under the rug DOES NOT WORK.” Squelched emotions fester and morph into exploding emotional mountains – precisely what happened to me.

Here’s a suggestion—the next time someone you know hits the meltdown wall, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “is my desire to “fix” or caretake, for them, or myself?” In other words, are you wanting to make them feel better, so you’ll feel better?

I’ve healed shame with exploration and professional help, and I no longer fall victim to self-comparison. Certainly, I have moments – I’m human after all, but here’s what’s shifted: I’ve learned how to navigate (not avoid) what I’m feeling. I know how to surrender to “what is” instead of resisting. I move on, whereas I used to be stuck. 

“All surrender means is to give up the fight” ~Sivan Garr

The woman, whose new business focus triggered my exploding emotional mountain – well, that’s Kate Northrup, author of the book “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Women.”

Today, I no longer feel “less than” and instead feel joy when witnessing the extraordinary work Kate’s doing, breaking a cultural paradigm of “pushing” with women in business. She brings her flavor; I bring my flavor, and you bring your flavor.  It’s not one or the other; it’s ‘all.’

Most important – witnessing someone’s good fortune, achievements, or moments of happiness, without comparison, self-doubt, or feeling small, creates a connection of heart that serves you and humanity as well!

With deep gratitude to my “space holders”: Soul-sister and author of books that heal, Barbara Huson, dear friend and talented musician Athena Burke, and the lovely, vivacious, smart, savvy Kate Northrup.

Do you suspect that your response to situations may be a trauma response? This short article outlines the four different types of trauma responses—giving healthy and unhealthy responses. Working with a professional trained in trauma healing is a gift to yourself, and to every human, you interact with.

Ubuntu (I am because you are),


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