What does "help" mean?
Is it a good thing? If so, then why does it sometimes get such a bad response?
How many times have you heard "I was only trying to help!" when someone receives an unexpected reaction to their kind intention?
I have noticed a pattern both in the therapy room and in every day life; when many of my clients talk about giving "help" to someone, it is seen in a positive manner...but when it is viewed from a receiving perspective it can look very different. This encouraged me to explore what "help" really means.
From the givers point of view, "help" is displayed as kindness, support, compassion, friendship and love. By giving help we can demonstrate our capabilities, and in turn it can make us feel valued and good about ourselves. However, when receiving help, it can be uncomfortable for some. Many individuals express feelings of vulnerability and incompetence, and it can highlight criticism, sympathy and judgement.
Depending on how needy the offer of help makes a person feel, can trigger emotions like anger and even aggression. Their reaction can be dependant on so many things like who offers the help, what else is going on at that time in their lives, and how it is presented.
What does help mean to you? Would you ask for help?
Most of us find it easy to ask for help in the form of advice or basic challenges, but can you ask for help when you feel vulnerable, lonely or tearful? Do you have a special person who you can call upon to listen to you and understand you? Or do you swallow it and keep it all inside to avoid the prospect of causing further problems, because you too find it difficult to ask for help?
Could our responses to help stem from our childhood? Did our parents reaction to our requests for help as children lead to our reluctance to accept it now? Words like "Oh, just get on with it" were often heard. If help was scarce in our childhood we may have tailored our lives to living without it, and the offer now can be what triggers the emotions of the child within us.
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About Annette Perlmutter
Having worked in a corporate environment, I understand the pressure and how it can weigh heavily on us. Many times I felt that I needed help but it was likely to be seen as incompetence, so I didn't ask. It makes me wonder how many people are now in my position and what is the ultimate cost.