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GC_LauraBoak_150Facing the Pain of Caretaking
By Laura Adams Boak and Jelaila Starr
Written June 28, 2004
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In 1998, I graduated massage school with the intent on fulfilling what I thought was my true calling in life: healing others through massage therapy.  Almost immediately I was soon rewarded for my choice to fulfill my calling because I was hired at a beautiful and ritzy health spa and given a great salary. Not only did this give me a comfortable lifestyle, knowing that I was on purpose added to the joy - enriching my life with a sweetness I had never know.  But, that sweetness wouldn't last.   

Being a new massage therapist, I was given the biggest, tallest clients with the tightest, hardest muscles.  Releasing the pain in their bodies usually required a lot of effort, and they usually insisted that I use deep pressure.  By the end of each day, my hands, wrists, and arms throbbed in pain. By the end of the workweek, I’d have to soak my hands and arms in buckets of ice water to relieve the pain and swelling that if left unattended could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Sitting on the couch, I'd stare at the two buckets of freezing doom waiting on the coffee table in front of me. Before I had a chance to wimp out, I'd plunge my hands and arms into the water, letting out a high-pitched scream as waves of pain shot though my body.   

After 20 minutes of the water torture, I'd remove my arms from the buckets and collapse back into the sofa, exhausted and spent.  Waiting for the numbness to leave my cold and lifeless arms, I'd lie there and wonder (as I did at the end of every week) if I was doing too much for my clients.   

I took pride in the way that I cared for my clients.  No matter what physical or emotional pain they suffered, I strived to relieve it. Being empathic, I could read their emotions and feel their pain as soon as I put my hands on their bodies.  Each time I felt this, my heart swelled with empathy.  I’d push my hands and fingers to the breaking point in order to blast out every shred of tightness and blockage.  If I felt their muscles needed extra attention, or if they just needed more time to talk, I'd give them extra time at no charge.  In some cases, this would cost me my lunch break, but I didn't care. It didn't matter that I went home some days feeling like the walking dead, hungry, tired, sore, and emotionally spent.  I was proud to be able to take good care of them. 

After a few years, though I tried hard to prevent it, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome.  The hands I needed to give my life meaning were now a wreck.  I could no longer do the work without pain and stiffness.  As if that weren’t enough, I began suffering in other ways. I started gaining weight, developed a large cyst on my ovaries, chronic shoulder pain, and had two fainting spells that landed me in the emergency room.  It seems that with every month there was a new ailment.   

Despite all this pain, I continued to work unaware of the connection between my failing health and the way I chose to fulfill my purpose.  But, eventually I began to see the light. Four years into my career I lost the passion that had once made life sweet. I began to dread every client that lay on my table.  Massage Therapy had turned into a chore, a J-O-B that I couldn’t wait to get out of.   

It was time to make a change, but how? 

Turning to the one source I knew, I asked God why I had lost my love and passion for my work, and why I was in so much pain.  The answer came shortly after my request when I felt a sudden urge to study the process known as ascension.  While cruising the Internet and metaphysical bookstores for information on this subject, I discovered a body of work that embraced a multidimensional perspective1, not just on ascension, but also on living life in a completely different way. This body of work spoke to me of a balanced life.  It explained how I could create that balance by defining my needs, setting limits, and taking care of my self without feeling guilty - even when that meant putting my own needs first.  It also spoke of the dysfunctional behavior patterns that we unconsciously inherit from our families and society.  These patterns can create unimaginable amounts of emotional pain and suffering. With my new awareness, I discovered I had one of the more dysfunctional ones. 

I discovered that I had inherited the pattern of caretaking.  Caretaking is another name for codependency, the obsessive need to rescue others from their pain in order to control the amount of pain that one feels.  Looking back over my life I could see clearly how I had developed the pattern and how I used it.  

1.  I learned to caretake from my mom and grandmother. They did all that they could not to disappoint people, even if that meant denying their needs to put their spouses, children, and the communities’ needs ahead of themselves.  Consequently, they both received the love, adoration and approval from all who knew them. Wanting the same for myself, I chose to follow in their footsteps.  As a young woman I adored these two women and wanted to be just like them.

2.  As I grew into adulthood, I discovered that I was naturally empathic, able to read the thoughts and emotions of others.  I’d unconsciously probe their emotional field in order to ascertain what they needed - enabling me to fulfill that need without them having to ask.  I believed that by doing this, they would see that I really cared bout them.  I’d gotten so good at doing this that it became very difficult for me to walk down the street without probing and thus absorbing the emotions of all those around me. 

3.  As a massage therapist, I smothered my clients with extra attention in an attempt to eradicate their pain.  

So now that I know how I became a caretaker, why did I do it?  Two major reasons came to mind.  First, I'd caretake to obtain the love and approval that I could not give to myself and that I felt I would receive as payment for relieving others of their unwanted pain.  Needing to find a reason to justify my right to exist, I never established proper psychic boundaries that would protect me from the emotions of others and thus safeguard my body and my health. 

Secondly, like all caretakers, I could not handle feeling pain.  I did not have the means to process it so in order to avoid feeling pain, I'd take action using my power to reduce or, better yet, eliminate it.  

Having made these discoveries, I felt like a foolish martyr.  My life and body had suffered so much.  Moreover, when I faced the negative side of my caretaking, I realized I had actually harmed my clients.  By controlling their pain, I unknowingly robbed them of their power and personal freedom.  I see now that I wasn't helping them like I thought I was.  To be brutally honest with myself, I'd have to say that my motives for caretaking were totally self-serving.   

Now that I knew I was a caretaker, understood why I did it, and realized the harm it caused, I was more than ready to stop right then and there!  But how was I going to initiate a major life change without the tools to do it?  Frankly, I didn't know how the heck I was going to start.  It was like seeing a pile of wood with instructions to build a house, but not having the hammer and nails.  So, I went back to my multidimensional teachings to search for the tools. 


1.  The first tool I found was higher dimensional compassion. It was clear to me that I had to stop acting out of fear and extreme judgment towards pain.  From the higher perspective, all things have value as growing opportunities, even those we consider bad.  For instance, the pain and mental anguish of losing my passion for massage therapy led me to discover the keys to open the door to a better life. What better way is there?  This is the definition of higher dimensional compassion.  Thus, my solution is to apply compassion to my life in order to get real about the value of pain, which stops the instinct to fear, judge, and pity.  With that, there is no longer a need to rescue people - A ha! 

2.  The second tool I found was setting limits and boundaries based upon my needs and wants.  It was obvious to me that my body suffered because I didn't set limits on what I will do or give, nor had I established boundaries to determine how much I will do or give.  To correct this, I acknowledged that I needed more rest and recuperation from my labor, and not give deep tissue massages anymore.  I made an agreement with myself to put a limit on the number of clients I'll take per day and per week, and to monitor how much pressure I use to prevent pain in my fingers and hands.  I may teach the client yoga poses, stretches, or self -applied acupressure as a means of lessening the stress on myself thus putting the power to manage pain back into the clients' hands.  Naturally, when I slip back into the habit of doing too much, my body tells me through pain, i.e. carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, etc.   

At this point, I had all the higher dimensional tools and awareness that I needed to begin building my new life.  Now it was just a matter of dealing with the reactions of everybody in my life, namely my clients and co-workers.  

I had no idea what to expect, but fortunately most reactions where good.  My clients and co-workers respected my new limits and even gaveme more attention and courtesy.  Some clients said they felt more comfortable around me because I had stopped smothering them.  On the other hand, some labeled me selfish, probably because they had developed a dependency on my caretaking.  For instance, my boss lost some spa income because I was taking on fewer clients.  She accused me of sabotaging the best interests of the spa.  But, I simply told her, "I am no good to anybody unless I do what is best for me first."  Soon, she found greater respect for me, and our relationship continued on good terms. 

Despite the mostly positive reactions from others, I was a little clumsy with my new tools at first. After all, they were principals I had never lived by before.  Honestly, I had to make many mistakes and misjudgments before I became adept with using them.  But with practice and patience, I found a balanced place that satisfied my love of helping others with getting my own needs and wants met.   

Gone is the cycle of harming others by thrusting myself upon them, and gone is the carpal tunnel syndrome and other ailments that crippled my body and burned me out.  The heavy burden I once felt to rescue others has been lifted, and as a result, I feel lighter and more vibrant.  I can say "no" to people now, and I laugh when somebody calls me selfish because I know I'm healthily selfish.   

In closing, it is my hope in sharing this story that you will be able to discover if you have this pattern and be able to take steps to change it.  I understand that it may be challenging to embrace the idea of giving to yourself first, especially when you have been given the selfless mission to heal and assist others.  But as I experienced in my own life, fatigue and other ailments caused by caretaking can ultimately kill your desire and passion for your mission, ruining your career before it gains full speed. 

If we really want to help another, we’ll attend to ourselves first and be a model of strong self-support while being there for others.  We are here on Earth at this time to do great things for humanity...let us not sabotage that purpose!  Instead, let us restore essential energy to ourselves first so we can hang in there for the long haul! 

Peace be with you,
Laura Adams Boak
The Nibiruan Council 

Additional Reading
The Formula of Compassion
Booklet Excerpt:
Dancing with the Dark
Booklet Excerpt:

1 Multidimensional perspective: The higher perspective from integrating both light and dark polarities. 

About the author
Laura is available for questions or comments. Please call (781) 933-5750 or email at

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