Give a man a fish and he eats for a day
Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime
Most people want to help people, to be seen as helpful, and to do good things. Good intentions are not enough. We need to understand our reasons why we are helping someone and we need to understand the effect of our actions. When we help others, we need to ask ourselves—are our “helping” actions truly helping the other person?
We may realize we have a Helping Addiction when despite the evidence that our “helping” is not truly helping the other person, we are compelled to continue to try to help them.
Signs we have a helping addiction:
- You realize your efforts to help someone are not changing the other person’s life for the better and you continue to attempt to help.
- You feel compelled to repeated pick up the pieces for someone who calls you when they are in an emergency.
- You notice people you are attempting to help consistently are unable to manage their time, resources and energy
- You notice a person or the people you are attempting to help become increasingly demanding of your help.
- You feel guilty when you are not the person to help someone—even if they receive help from someone else who is more qualified to help.
If we are addicted to helping others, we need help ourselves.
We aren’t helping anyone and we are hurting ourselves if we are "helping" someone too much. Helping ourselves is a matter of getting in touch with our thoughts and feelings associated with helping others. Do you want to rescue others? Does it hurt you to see others in pain and helping others relieves the sympathy pain you feel? Do you help to feel needed or fulfill something within yourself? Do you want others to view you as helpful? Is it more important to have a helpful image than to truly benefit another? What am I getting out of this unhealthy dynamic of rescuing, enabling, or encouraging something not helpful for me or the other person?
The reasons why we help others can be endless. After reading this, you may get the impression that it’s not good to help others. That is simply not true. It is good to help others, it is not good to rescue others or create a dependence with another person.
So how can we help others in a healthy way?
The key to helping in a healthy way is setting boundaries or setting limits. Understand what you are able to do for someone, what they can do or start to do for themselves and set up the “rules of helping” early and continue to reinforce it. It is not about pleasing or attempting to not disappoint someone else. It is about protecting yourself and empowering the other person. When helping, your main goal should be to help someone help themselves and become a stronger, more independent person in the future. The support/assistance you provide needs to become the inspiration that compels the person to adopt their own plan to manage their lives and create their success. Supporting another person can include exchange assisting each other with tasks or running errands, teaching someone how to do something, being a sounding board—listening without problem solving, problem solving—i.e. brainstorming, provide information from your expertise and/or experience, provide a second set of hands, etc.
The hardest part is once you realize your assistance is doing more harm than good, you will need to stop. There will be times when not doing is the most helpful thing you can you do.