How can I help?
When I am totally overwhelmed, it is illogical to serve someone else. However, one of life’s paradoxes is helping others helps me feel less overwhelmed. I tested it repeatedly and it works. It is more fun to do dishes at my kids house than at my own house. My heart feels lighter after helping someone else. My own challenges seem to be more manageable. My counselor taught me the 5/50 rule of service. It can’t cost more than 50 cents and can’t take longer than 5 minutes. Amazing number of things can be accomplished with that criteria. Becoming aware of others keeps my focus outward and engaged. Two important skills for me to work on.
James Ryan brought up a very important issue to think about when serving others. I’m quoting it because I want his words to share his caution.
“How can I help?” You are at HGSE, I presume, because you are interested in helping others. But you also know, from your time here, to be aware of the savior complex, of the stance where you are the expert or hero who swoops in to save others. We shouldn’t let the real pitfalls of the savior complex extinguish one of the most humane instincts there is — the instinct to lend a hand. But how we help matters as much as that we do help, and if you ask “how” you can help, you are asking, with humility, for direction. And you are recognizing that others are experts in their own lives and that they will likely help you as much as you help them.
I blew it off at first thinking it didn’t apply to me…I was wrong. I do have to watch out for this savior complex* that I can save my mother or any other person, I’m the only one that can fix things, that I am all powerful. As a 5 year old child, I was expected to care for my mother, I made her happy, I made her angry, and it was my fault if she hit me because I made her do it. I could control my mother therefore I could save her….wow it took me 3 days to sort through these distortions. My presence or absence does not control my mother unless she chooses to have it control her. I realized the emotional black mail she was using with me when visiting. “You are like sunshine coming to visit me, this is the most miserable thing that ever happen to me and your visits are the sunshine in my life.” Never mind that my dad visits every day. My brothers visit. The underlying message either you come and visit me or I will be more miserable and it will be your fault. No…just No. I can’t save my mother from misery, from herself or anything else. I can visit her if I choose to but her happiness is her responsibility not mine. I needed to bring this very concrete example under the microscope of Ryan’s warning about the savior complex*.
*Savior complex….more information http://www.peopleskillsdecoded.com/savior-complex/
My challenge is to serve others and take care of myself. I am one of the people I can serve.
2 thoughts on “Illogical solution”
Excellent post. I like the 5/50 rule. So often I feel unable to contribute, but that rule makes it possible.
One thing I heard a pastor teach once is an exception to the “how can I help” method. He suggested that if the person you want to help is overwhelmed by grief, or otherwise, then the question to ask is instead, “would it be helpful if I did for/with you?”
His point was that a person who is truly devastated may not be able to direct the helpers… or even know what help is really needed. I suspect it is still better to *start* by asking how to help, then suggesting a way if their response says they need that.
Pingback: Breaking the silence… | The Project: Me by Judy