“Help is the Sunny Side of Control”

When I heard Courtney* quote Anne Lamott yesterday, it really got me mulching over it for a while. Let’s ponder this thought together here.

Helping people. That’s a good thing, right? Hmmm, do we dare to look very honestly at what goes on when we offer help?

I am not talking about the occasional help we offer people, or being a professional caregiver. No, I am talking about ‘helping’, about ‘giving advice’ as being your modus operandi towards everyone, or maybe towards one or two people in particular.

Have a close look at the situation? Is someone asking for your help? Are you helping out where help was asked, or do you ‘take over’? Is there still a feeling of equality between the helper and the person getting help? This is a very interesting question which Stephen Karpman** explains very clearly with his Drama Triangle.

In this triangle, he explains 3 roles a person can ‘play’ in life, or can get appointed. You have the persecutor, the rescuer and the victim. When people are acting from one of these places, there is no equality. The persecutor is feeling superior and feels the need to ‘correct’ the other because he/she thinks they know what is ‘right’ and ‘good’. The rescuer thinks he/she is better and really needs to ‘help’, as in rescue, the other person, because he/she believes that without his/her help the other person would not be able to handle life. The victim is feeling helpless and believes he/she is inferior because apparently, they can’t do everything by themselves and therefor believe they are inferior.

This is where ‘help’ becomes dangerously close to control. I do believe persecutors and rescuers are acting from a belief that they are really helping others and that they are being very caring. But……we may believe we are helping people whenever we think they need help or when they do not know how to do certain things, but, there is no ‘one right way’, there is no ‘one correct opinion’. I think it’s important to let people decide how much and when they want help and advice. I think it is very important to really listen and hear what others are asking. That is when we start communicating on a level of equality. This can happen:

when the persecutor becomes someone who is able to help out whenever someone is stuck in a situation and actually asks for an opinion, for advice, for possible solutions.

when the rescuer becomes a person who helps another person when help is asked and only helps where that person feels help is necessary, and therefor lets the person still have as much independency as possible.

when the victim becomes a person who may need help with a certain aspect in life but is still very capable of making his/her own decisions on lots of stuff, and is still able to do things independently, is still able to have an opinion, is still able to express his or her own taste and his or her own preferences on how to do stuff.

This is not only the most preferable way of interacting with our fellow human beings, it is also the best way to reduce stress!!!

How can helping others cause us to stress out?

Lots of reasons:

When we are giving unsolicited help, we will get frustrated as people may not be as appreciative as we would like them to be.

When we are giving advice, we expect people to act upon it so we are upset when they don’t.

When we are helping people, they may have a different opinion on what is the best way to help them and again… we feel frustrated, we feel not appreciated enough, …

If we can take a very honest look at what we intend to do when helping people out, we will realize that in fact we try to control their lives. We think our way is the best way to do certain things, we think our timing is the most efficient timing (for whom?), we believe that the way we organize stuff is the best way, we believe our opinions are the correct ones, … and so on.

In fact, it is our ego who needs to be right, it is our ego that fears other opinions, other situations. Our ego needs to be in control or it goes crazy. We may not see it that way, we may not even realize that it is our fear that makes us want to control other people. Fear of unknown situations, fear of not being able to handle a situation, fear of other kind of solutions than the ones we normally would come up with, … fear wants to keep us on known territory hence we try to control everyone and everything so that we can stay within our own known boundaries.

All this causes stress as we can NEVER control other people, as we can NEVER control life. Life will throw us out of our comfort zone. We will encounter situations we have never encountered before so we will need to act in ways we have never had to act in before. We will need to broaden our horizons and learn there are a lot of ways to be right, a lot of ways to live happily, …

The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can let go of that need to be right, of that need to rescue, of that need to give advice, of that need to ‘help’. People are more than welcome to ask, and you are more than welcome to give when asked. BUT go with the flow, lower your level of taking control, lower your expectations. You don’t need to take over other people’s lives, you don’t need to change other people’s minds. All you can do is offer what you can and let them do with it as they see fit.

Once you don’t need to control anymore, you will be able to accept that everyone has his/her own way of living, of thinking, of acting and you will learn to accept that you can’t change anyone and that it’s not even up to us to do so anyway. We are not more right than others, we are not meant to control others. Help out when it is asked for but always from a perspective of equality.

If you are looking to lower your levels of stress in your life, just let these thoughts sink in and try them out. See how it works.

I wish you all the calm, the strength to take a step back and look at what you are doing, expecting, … when you feel frustration flaring up again.

Take a deep breath and say ‘this too is okay’ and let go of your need to try and change things to the way you want them to be.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.” African proverb

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*Courtney Carver, founder of The Simplicity Space, author of ‘Soulful Simplicity’ and ‘Project 333’.

**The Karpman Drama Triangle by dr. Stephen Karpman.

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