Wednesday, 11 August 2010

When help can hinder...

There are people in life who are 'Helpers'.  They see what needs to be done and then they do it.  They hate to see others overwhelmed, distressed or unable to manage.  So they jump in to help.

"Hi, I'm Jennifer and I'm a Helper."  I admit it. 

I've only recently discovered that helping isn't quite as positive as I thought it was.  How often have I helped because I (mistakenly) thought the other person couldn't cope as well as I could?  Or because I needed to feel needed?  Or how often have I helped, only to rob the other person of the learning they were creating?  Even if that learning was that they need to decide how to invest their time gracefully rather than over-committing? 

There will always be another problem to solve, another problem, and yet another problem...  I can't clear up all the problems.  I can't make the world a neater, fairer, more just place, no matter how much I help.  I used to think, unconsciously, that once the issue was solved, everything else would work out fine... In effect, that I could bring an end to problems!

Helping, like anything, is complex.  It brings forward the shadow side as much as the light, within each one of us.  In the shadow side, I help because I need to feel wanted, to become 'worthy' by making a difference.  It's driven from some deeper feeling of inadequacy on my part... a vague, gnawing feeling that I'll be a better person, or look better, or simply assuage my own fears that I'm not doing enough.

Equally, on the positive side, I help because I have the time, interest and desire to be involved in finding a solution, or making something happen.  I help because I desire to contribute to my community, or family.  I help because to do so brings me a genuine feeling of pleasure.

What is important, I am learning, is to discern before agreeing to help: Do I want to help from a place of joy or burden?  When I agree to this, which of my own needs am I satisfying?  Am I creating freedom, peace, joy, forgiveness within myself?  Or am I harbouring resentment, anger and judgment?  Do I want to be seen in a certain light... as a martyr?  As self-sacrificing?  As all-capable? 

Knowing why I'm helping makes it easier for me to discern genuine opportunities to collaborate and 'help', improving my sense of well-being and that of those involved.  Looking at the individual threads of my motivations helps me to reconnect with my integrity and, ultimately, more aligned with my authentic power.

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