Trying to Help: Enabling Failure
Telling people what they have got to do is typical of those who are trying to help. However, this only perpetuates their dependency on others to solve their problems. And it doesn’t help. It prescribes a goal, but doesn’t tell people how to remove the obstacles that keep them from achieving success.
Below are some examples of the futile “advice” others offer:
1) “You can solve any problem if you just put your mind to it.”
This is consistent with the American ideals of independence and pragmatism. However, all problems cannot be solved rationally. Some problems of the heart do not show up on an EKG. They cannot be solved with lesson from the classroom.
2) “It’s all good”
Many Americans are deeply superficial. They are allergic to going beneath the surface. To them, things are what they seem to be. Yet, life is not nearly that simple. Surface problems often arise out of mistaken ideas and perceptions from the past or conflicts that have not been identified and resolved, such as fear of rejection. These landmines sit and wait to explode. So when something in the present reminds them of some unfinished business from the past. The thought of digging below the surface is very scary. It’s so much safer to avoid dealing with it. So we may think that the issue is our anger at our boss for being such a jerk. But what if the issue is that our boss reminds us of our inconsiderate father and the anger at him that we have never dealt with?
3) “Its nothing to worry about it.”
Some advisors specialize in a particular area of expertise, such as medicine, finances, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and so on. They are a hammer and every problem is a nail. They are not prepared to consider that the problem lies outside their area of expertise. When faced with a problem they cannot solve, they dismiss it and hope it goes away.
4) “Stop thinking about it. There is nothing you can do about it.”
Here the helper is telling us what to do, but not how to do it. Long standing problems are not resolved by stuffing them down internally. This doesn’t help because we are still holding onto them. What we avoid gains significance and only gives these feelings more power and control over us. This is what people tell us when they feel unable to offer a solution. The past is not dead, our emotional pain is alive and impacts us in the present.
5) “You have no right to be upset.” Anger is not a matter of “right” like the Bill of Rights. That is absurd. Anger is an emotional response to something painful; past, present or future. The emotional pain may or may not make logical sense, but our right to feel angry is not an issue. We all have anger, we have a heart, we are not the Tin-man. This is another example of using facts to solve feelings. Facts are logical, rational and concrete. Emotions are impulsive, abstract and non-rational. Emotional problems need to be solved emotionally.
Karmin, A. (2014). Trying to Help: Enabling Failure. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2014/07/trying-to-help-enabling-failure/