Where to Find the Antidote to Your Pain: Lessons from "sting and relief" relationships in Nature

The Jewelweed Plant, an antidote to Poison Ivy.

The Jewelweed Plant, an antidote to Poison Ivy.

When I was in high school, I got poison ivy on my face. In my eye, to be exact, and it was so bad that my eye was swollen shut for three days. Being extremely image-conscious (it’s high school, after all), I was mort.i.fied. that my mom still made me go to school. Because not only was my eye swollen shut, the whole area was covered by a raised, red, sometimes yellow-y rash. It was painful, itchy, and it certainly wasn’t drawing the kind of attention I wanted to get from the cuties on the soccer team.

How badly I wished for a quick fix - something to ease the discomfort and reduce the swelling. Little did I know, there was a natural antidote growing very close to the offending poison ivy plant: jewelweed. Jewelweed and poison ivy are in what’s called a “sting and relief” relationship. Oftentimes in Nature, the antidote to poison grows very close to it. So close, in fact, that we can miss it entirely on our way to search for help.

Jewelweed and poison ivy are but one example. Need a salve for stinging nettle? Look for a slimy slug right nearby. Its goo will ease your pain. Have you run into the aggressive chechem tree in Central America? The leaves of its neighbor, chaka, are designed to stop the biochemical warfare happening on your skin. Wracked by hay fever? The echinacea nearby will soothe you.

Like everything in Nature, parallels abound in our professional lives. How often do we have a problem or experience pain in our worklives and search far and wide for a solution, only to come back to the resources right around us?

What feels painful in your career right now? Is it possible the antidote is already within your reach?

A few weeks ago, I posted on Instagram that I’d been feeling sort of stuck in my worklife and wanted some support to move through it. I realized that I’d built an entire system for people in that exact scenario, and why not go through it myself? So I enrolled in Soft Coaching and have been using the weekly journaling prompts to reflect and notice the themes coming up in my own career.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Not long after I had that realization, I was talking to an artist in the midst of a career change. She was wondering about how to get clarity in her career, and I couldn’t help but suggest that she make a piece of art about it and see what came up. That hadn’t really dawned on her before, because she thought the process had to look linear or like a pros and cons list. But she had access to tremendous insight through her art practice, and it would be a shame if that couldn’t be applied to her career questions.

A week later, I was talking to a client with years of project management experience about his career transition. He expressed feeling unsure about how to proceed with the change but hadn’t considered applying a project management framework to it. Once he tapped into that awareness, he could see how setting up a linear timeline with actionable goals would totally work for him.

No matter what kind of pain you’re experiencing in your career right now, I bet you do things to help others that could easily be applied as your own antidote.

Are you a caregiver who needs to apply the same level of care to yourself?

Are you a strategic planner who needs to take yourself on a visioning retreat?

Are you an efficiency whiz who needs to apply the same zero-waste policy to your own habits and thoughts?

We are each our own best antidotes. If you feel a strong urge to work with a coach, get feedback from an “expert,” or feel validated from others in your field, see if you can’t be your own best coach, expert, or friend first. As a career coach myself, I see the power of that kind of relationship and know that sometimes we really do need outside help. But before you look far afield, remember that the antidote to your pain could be close at hand, ready to be applied as a soothing, healing salve.