Monday, 13 February 2017

Have you tried yoga?: Helping or helpfulness

Are you interested in losing friends and alienating people? These four little words can really be of assistance: Have you tried yoga (crossfit/meditation/going gluten-free)?

The night had been putridly hot: the high whine of mozzies and their itchy intrusions had allowed me only glimpses of sweet oblivion. Fat, salty tears ran down my face as I sat alone on a mattress on the floor. My worldly belongings fitting into two boxes next to me.

I missed my girls. I missed my family. I missed my home. I had walked out on everything because it had become an unworkable situation. Then as I had tried so hard to hold everything together, I was broken. Tired, homeless and stretched beyond coping I put a post on Facebook, “Feeling sad today.” I was so incredibly down, I needed help.

Among the usual virtual hugs and the offers of help was someone who I loved with a statement of helpfulness, “Why don’t you go to yoga?”

It was jarring and hurtful.

Here I was in a world of overwhelm and these words stabbed me in the chest. An accusation of laziness. I was in overwhelm because I wasn’t doing enough.

When someone is in crisis they need helpfulness about as much as a drowning person needs advice on stroke correction.

Helping is jumping into the water and bringing someone to safety. It’s active, it requires commitment from the helper. Helping is the doing, the listening. It is being present and empathetic.

A person in a crisis often can’t use the tools they have - let alone new ones – because their focus is engulfed by the problem. It is all consuming for them. It is in these circumstances all we can do as a friend is try to ease the burden of the issue. It is the only way they can get the strength to start to look at a resolution.

This doesn’t mean you need to martyr yourself. Sometimes helping is connecting a loved one with someone else who can help or rallying a group of people who can each take a small burden to ease the pressure on the person in crisis.

On the other hand, helpfulness is shouting “How to swim” instructions. It’s passive and as the presenter of helpfulness you need to do nothing more once those words have left your mouth.

You are basically throwing tools at someone who doesn’t have the strength to use them. They can’t hear you over the sound of the water and their own drowning. You can’t throw them a life buoy. They can’t see it or use it.

Giving helpfulness in a crisis is basically a way of absolving yourself of easing the problem; and burdens the drowning person with more to deal with.

Helpfulness is not always wrong.

When someone is swimming, but at risk of drowning, throwing them a life buoy could save their life. Giving someone tools to use when their head is above the water not only means that you are not under undue strain, it is empowering  for the person you are trying to help. Having new tools means they are far less likely to have the same struggle in the future.

So before you jump in with a statement of helpfulness ask yourself: Is this person drowning or dog-paddling? Am I in a position to get them out of the water?

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