A trait often present in people with ME/CFS is that of the helper.
This is the person who is keen to help others.
It can be a good trait.
However it can also become an unhelpful one, that is detrimental to the person doing the helping, because they are not taking care of their own needs.
It can also be detrimental to the person being helped, for a number of reasons, including that they:
- Become reliant on others
- Become passive and even helpless
- Take advantage of the good natured person
4 Steps For Managing The ‘Helper’ Trait
1. Consider Your Motivation
A person’s motivation for being a helper may include one or more of the following:
- They like helping others; it feels good
- They want to feel loved
- They fear being unwanted
- They feel unworthy of being loved
What is your motivation?
If it’s not just no. 1, then it may be useful to do some deeper therapeutic work, that is beyond the scope of this article.
2. Find Balance Between Giving And Taking
Some people give. Some people take. Some people give and take.
If you lean towards the first statement, then there is a lack of balance.
Some people give and give. If you haven’t got the energy to look after yourself, then you have to think about whether you can carry on as you are.
A client reminded me of the advice given by cabin crew on aeroplanes:
Put on your own oxygen mask before helping another person with theirs.
Of course some people take. They will gravitate towards helpers!
3. Ask Yourself
“Am I Allowing Others To Help Me?”
Helpers often don’t like to receive. They don’t feel they are worthy. If you don’t feel worthy, this needs addressing.
If you are unwell, you may have to allow yourself to receive help, however uncomfortable it feels, if you want to make progress.
4. Ask Yourself
“Am I Asking For Help When I Need It?”
Asking for help can be difficult for a number of reasons:
i. We are admitting to ourselves that we need others
That can make us feel vulnerable.
The truth is we all need others. Anyone who thinks they don’t need the help of others should consider who grows the food they eat, purifies the water they drink, etc.
ii. They might judge us for being ‘weak’
Some people are uncomfortable showing or seeing any weakness. This tells us something about the way they think.
Some people believe that being able to show vulnerability at times is a sign of maturity. It’s a question of balance.
iii. They might say no
Having someone say no can be a disappointment.
We have to learn to deal with disappointment.
Consider though, that they might say yes. I believe that good hearted people like to help others, as it makes them feel good.
If a person says no, it may be because they:
Have a lot one their plate and are overwhelmed. We don’t need to take that personally!
They are in a grumpy mood. They may change their mind.
They are just mean. Perhaps it is better to know that and to seek out other people who are nicer!
Note: Being able to say no is another useful way of managing the helper trait. I will deal with learning to say no in another article.
Managing ‘helper’ tendencies may support your body’s healing.
Consider that you need to put yourself first in order to help yourself and help others in a sustainable and healthy way.
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After working in a demanding job as the Director of a Housing Trust, he went off sick and remained unable to work for the next 8 years.
He discovered a pioneering approach to resolving health issues and got back his health, and now trains others using these same techniques.