I LIKE HELPING!
As long as I take care of myself in the process
PREVIOUS: Rescuing (#2)
REVIEW: Hero Family Role
ACoAs: Many of us were trained from birth to be helpers, regardless of our native personality style & interests. There’s an ironic saying in recovery circles: “ACOAs are born with an MSW (Masters in Social Work) and then get their Birth Certificate later”!
• This is most common with the child who has the Hero role, which is usually the first-born in a dysfunctional family. They’re supposed to pick up the slack where the parents leave off – being the little adult to make the family look healthier than it really is, but at the expense of the child.
• This caretaker role becomes so deeply ingrained that it is usually carried into all of our ADULT relationships. It requires unceasing effort for the benefit of others, instead of caring fully for ourselves. (See ‘RESCUING – False Helping’).
✦ On the other hand, there are ACoAs who, by their very nature, are meant to be in the helping or service professions, like people born with strong Water & Air Sign influences in their astrological chart – such as Pisces, Cancer (the healers), Aquarius & Gemini (the teachers).
✦ For those of us so designed, the ideal is to be of genuine help to others, as a way to express our Highest Self – without resorting to the toxic patters of co-dependence, self-hate, boundary invasion, fear of abandonment & over-control.
GOAL of Heathy Helping (HH): Encourage someone to take of themselves the best way they can, in their current circumstance
OPPOSITE of making / keeping someone dependent on you!
1. OVERVIEW – before HELPING someone, ASK:
a. What do I know about the person I may help?
• are they responsible & self-caring?
• did they ask me directly & specifically, for something?
• will they be OK with me, if I can’t do what they want?
b. What exactly do they want?
• can they truly do it for themselves?
• is the request ‘clean’ (emotionally & verbally honest)?
• how many parts to the request are there, actually?
• what are the consequences/ price TO ME?
c. Can I Comply?
• am I really able to do this? (it’s not beyond my ability, OR it’s not something impossible)
• do I WANT to do it? If ‘Yes’ – what’s my motive?
• what does it require of me – specifically?
• will I be angry if I do it, or remorseful if I don’t?
• do I want anything in return? What are my expectations?
2. Prerequisites – for H.H.
a. In ME – I need to:
• have good self-esteem, solid sense of identity not dependent on others
• have developed strong boundaries, not needing to be symbiotic
• not have to use people to feel good about myself
• be able to keep the ‘focus on myself’ – not get enmeshed with the needs & emotions of others
• know my individual human limitations, without judgment or self-hate
• know what’s real, in the recovery process, about:
— emotions: each person is responsible for their own, & they can be managed
— the growth process: it’s slow & has to be experienced personally
— what Mental Health is (from ACoA website)
— what can be dealt with: what’s possible or not possible = ACoAs tend to get the Serenity Prayer backwards!
b. In THEM
I can help if they :
• are actively doing self-care, & communicating with their Inner Child (personal responsibility)
• actually ask for the help they want or need
• are clear about what they need (direct & specific)
• are truly ‘dis-abled’ in some way (ADD, PTSD, depression, illness…)
• use what I give then – applying it to their lives & use it to grow
➼ “Give a man a fish & you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish & you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese proverb
I can help as long as they DON’T :
• need to suck me dry / cling, use me as a parent substitute
• try to copy my personality, instead of forming their own
• expect me to be perfect, know everything, take care of them
• blame me for things that don’t work, for that they can’t do, or for disappointing outcomes
NEXT: Healthy Helping, Part 2