To help or not to help, that is the question. Contribution is one of the six basic human needs. We need to feel as if we are able to lend energy to others and as if that energy that we lend is of use and value to others. As people, we are inherently giving. If we cannot give our energy towards a collective creation, we feel as if we are living an empty life. Even the studies done on altruism in young children prove that we are driven innately to help each other. Over the course of our lives, sometimes several times a day, we feel called upon to help someone else. In fact, some of us consider helping others to be the central role and purpose of our lives. Society considers helping others to be a virtue that is synonymous with being a good person. And I am not doing this episode to debate whether helping is good or bad. We can all agree that helping in general is a very high vibrational endeavor. But helping others is not always a good idea, especially when we are helping people for the wrong reasons. When we are confronted with the opportunity to help others, we need to make sure we are doing it for the right reasons before we seize the opportunity. Natural helpers are people, people who we think of as selfless givers, even to the point of self-sacrifice, are people pleasing, empathic, warm hearted, sincere, sentimental and generous. Their most basic driving desire is to be loved. But there is usually great childhood sadness in them, a result of emotional neglect in their early relationships. They were often the "parentified" child in their family, the little adult or peacemaker that parents counted on not to give anyone any trouble. They learned that the way to be noticed and gain their significance was to be extra good and always be there for other people. Unfortunately, since the real meat of their empathy is based on the projection of their own emotional deprivation, they exaggerate the helplessness and neediness of others. And because emotional deprivation is rarely labeled as such, these people have no idea why they feel a lifelong, chronic sense of being overlooked. Deep down, helpers fear being unwanted and unworthy of love. And it is because of those desires and fears that the shadow side of the helper begins to show its face. The helper will often help purely to get love and to be wanted and needed. They can slip into self-sacrifice; play the role of the martyr and trap people in states of powerless dependence on them. An aspect of their emotional self has not evolved past their childhood experience. Beneath the surface, helpers fear that they are without value in themselves, and so they still think that they must be extra good and do things for others in order to win love and acceptance from others. Because of this extreme emotional deprivation lurking beneath the surface of the helper, their efforts to help in order to be noticed and loved often dead end and instead of being loved and accepted and appreciated for their help, they go unnoticed and are even resented for the help they try to give. When we consider ourselves to be natural helpers who dedicate our lives to the service of others, we tend to contain all of the shadow aspects of helping. But any and all of us, need to be aware of these shadow sides to helping before we help others or accept help from others. The shadow aspects of helping people revolve around helping for the wrong selfish reasons. We cannot actually ever help someone for unselfish reasons. Every motive in the universe is inherently selfish. This is because at our most basic, soul level, we know that there is no such thing as separation. Making the collective happy makes us happy. Making ourselves happy makes the collective happy. If we are honest with ourselves, seeing other people feel good, makes us feel good, so even though we may care about them, we are ultimately helping others to feel good because it makes us feel good. Ultimately there is no good and bad, but for the sake of understanding, lets say that we can help for the right selfish reasons, or the wrong selfish reasons. If we are helping for the wrong selfish reasons, we are using help to manipulate others.
The first shadow aspect of helping others is helping when the other person has not asked and then acting angry, resentful or passive aggressive when they do not show appreciation. It is tempting, when we want appreciation (which is a form of love) to leap on an opportunity to help someone. We are sure that the help will be well received. But we do not understand that our hidden motives can be felt by the other person. Our help does not feel genuine and when we are not appreciated for offering help, we become resentful and angry. It is easy to see how unfair this is from the outside looking in; to be resentful that we were not appreciated for something we were never asked to do in the first place.
If you volunteer to help someone, you are offering help where you see an opportunity to help, you have not been directly asked to help and so, gratitude is not a part of the arrangement. If you are shown gratitude as a result of volunteering, consider it a nice but unexpected bonus.
Be honest about whether you are an appreciation or gratitude junkie. If you are a gratitude junkie, like an addict, helping is just another way to get a fix. A good rule of thumb is that if you need or want appreciation for helping someone, do not help them in the first place because you are about to help them for manipulative reasons. Your reward for helping should be what you are getting out of the helping itself, not what other people give to you because of it.
On that note, the second shadow reason for helping is the need to be needed and likewise the fear of abandonment. When we need to be needed, we help people whenever we see the opportunity to do so, because our subconscious mind knows that it binds them to us. It forces them to become dependent on us and thus be unable to leave us. On the extreme end of the scale of this shadow, we see people who disempower others and who like to keep them sick or unhappy so that they have a guaranteed role in their lives. One example of the extreme side of this shadow is Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy whereby a person fulfills their need for positive attention by hurting someone else (usually their child) so as to keep them in the role of being “sick” so that they can gain support and personal attention by taking on a fictitious hero role. If we make people dependent on us, we can ensure that because they need us, they will never abandon us.
The third shadow reason for helping is the desire for leverage. Helping can be done in order to put people in a kind of prison, whereby we now have the power. We may help someone and thus consider him or her to be indebted. We may help people so that they can owe us. This is especially common if we want something from them. It is very common for people to help people because they want something in return. For example, a company may donate money to a politician, not because they actually want to help the politician, but because they expect the politician to help them pass a bill through government, which reduces their import, export taxes. One thing that we may want from others is their guaranteed alliance and compliance. We have all kinds of sayings in our society, such as “don’t bite the hand that feeds”, which reinforce the idea that if we help people, they are not allowed to oppose us. When alliance or compliance is what we want, we can use help to put people in a guilt trap. If they oppose us, we can use the help we gave them as leverage. We can use it to get them back into place by holding it over their heads and guilt them back into a place of gratitude, allegiance and compliance. We can even make them responsible for making us happy by reinforcing the idea that they owe us something for the help we gave them. The fourth shadow aspect of helping is self-sacrifice. People who self sacrifice, give up what is in their own best interests for the best interests of others. Many people would have you believe that self sacrificers are self less people. This is not the case. Self sacrificers are in fact some of the most self centered people around. Self Sacrificers are more addicted to getting love from other people than anyone. They play the martyr so that other people will see them as good and therefore approve of them and love them; they often times even play the martyr so that other people will pity them. Pity can feel like love to people who need badly to be seen as good. By being the victim, they get to be the “good one”.
Self sacrificers tend to feel used. They fall into the victim role of being used by everyone, sometimes because people are using them, but most times because they continually volunteer themselves to help, even when they are not asked to and feel put out as a result. The self sacrificer projects their lonely, deprived child-self onto others, imagining a neediness that may not actually exist.
The fifth shadow aspect of help is that those of us, who feel motivated to help, often have a hyper responsibility complex. We do not just take responsibility for ourselves; we also take responsibility for others. We tend to max ourselves out trying to be everything to everyone. We are eaten alive by guilt. We help people to absolve ourselves of this guilt. If we do not help, we feel as if we are being irresponsible and bad and we fear that we will be punished for it. We need to realize that it is not our responsibility to help others. But it is our capability to help others.
Nothing in this universe obligates you to help others. You are not even obligated to raise your own children. Nothing is forcing you to raise them. You technically could drop them off by the side of the road. I’m using this extreme example to demonstrate that if we choose to do something for someone else, it should be because we are capable of doing it and chose to do it willingly, not because we are obligated to do it because of some illusion of responsibility that we have invested in.
The sixth shadow aspect, which we have touched on previously, is that those of us who feel the need to help, are often projecting the need for help within ourselves onto others. Helping others serves as a distraction from our own dysfunction. If we are projecting our own problems onto other people and then helping them with those problems, we do not have to acknowledge them within ourselves. By exaggerating other people’s neediness and problems, we can ignore our own neediness and problems. Most of us with a helper complex are in denial of the fact that our childhoods contained deep levels of deprivation. We have an internal emptiness where love and significance should be, that needs to be filled up. We can feel this childhood aspect of ourselves within us that so badly needed love, approval, appreciation, support and connection, but was overlooked, disregarded, unsupported and conditionally loved. We want to get away from that inner childhood self. We want to gloss over it, deny it and make sure that no one else ever sees it. We project this overlooked and helpless, underdog childhood self onto others and then try to help that reflection. It doesn’t work. It’s like trying to clean the mirror to get rid of the reflection in the mirror. The internal anguish does not go away. There are of course more shadow aspects to help. I have merely listed the most common ones. Beware when you are exploring your motivations for lending a helping hand that motivation for helping can be mixed. It is possible to have pure conscious motivations for helping while also having shadow motives for helping. One thing that confuses helpers the most is why people have such bad reactions to being helped sometimes. Assuming that your motivation is completely pure for helping and that they are not reacting badly to you because they can feel your impure motives, one potential is that they are reacting badly to help because of the message that help so often sends. It is possible to help someone for the pure sake of love and because we want to see them achieve their desire. It is also possible to help someone because we see them as incapable. Often when we help someone, the subconscious message that we are sending him or her, is that they can’t do it. If this is the case, we disempower them by helping them.
Have you ever tried to help a five year old in the “do it myself” phase to tie his shoes? The notion of help most likely sent them into a fit because by saying, “let me help you tie your shoes”, you reinforced the fact that they were powerless to do it themselves. Disempowerment doesn’t feel good to anyone. Sometimes when we get help from other people, when we don’t ask for it, we are almost thinking, “way to tell me what you really think about me, thanks for the vote of confidence” (in a sarcastic tone).
People don’t want help sometimes because in order for them to ask for help or acknowledge that they need help, they have to acknowledge where they are, which can be really grim. Coming around to the realization that they are powerless or compromised is scary. Scary enough that many people would rather deny the help and believe that they are better off than they are. All this being said, when you are presented with the opportunity to help someone, question you true motives for helping. To do this, you will have to be brutally honest with yourself and capable of acknowledging your own shadows. It’s tempting for us when we want to help to go into denial and justify helping with the ever so popular “Because they need my help” or “because I love to see other people happy” excuses.
As far as when to help people and when to not help people, that is completely up to your own personal discernment. To enhance your own discernment, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want to see happen as a result of my help?
- Am I lending my energy to the problem or to the solution?
- What are the positive reasons I have for helping them?
- What are the negative reasons I have for helping them?
- Am I projecting my lonely, deprived child-self onto others, imagining a neediness that may not actually be there, or may only be partly true?
- Do they really need my help, or am I subconsciously pushing my own agenda onto them?”
Once you have owned up to your motivation for helping, you probably already know whether it is a good idea to help or whether it is a bad idea to help. No one can make that decision for you. But here are 6 good tips that will help you to decide whether to help or not:
- Is the person you are helping receptive to your help? Sometimes people will ask for help outright, other people (especially those who have a difficult time asking for help) will not. If it is not immediately obvious how you can help them, ask them how you can help. If it is obvious how you can help them, and you know they will be receptive to it, just do it. Do it without explaining yourself or expecting gratitude in return.
- The best kind of help empowers people. Is your help going to empower them or disempower them? Is the help going to make it easier for them to reach their own goals? The best kind of help puts tools in other people’s hands so that they can achieve what they desire. These are the gifts that last a lifetime.
- Get informed. Don’t automatically assume that you know what is best for someone. The more informed you are about the other person and what the other person needs and wants, the easier it will be to decide whether or not you can help them, and if you can help them, how to best help them. Assuming that you know what is best for someone, often causes us to lend help that is not helpful at all.
- Make sure that your boundaries are healthy before you offer to help someone or say yes when someone asks you for help. If you struggle with boundaries, watch my YouTube video titled “Boundaries vs. Oneness, How to Develop Healthy Boundaries”. A strong sense of self will enable you to know what is right for you and what is wrong for you; it will also help you to know whether helping someone is in alignment or out of alignment for you.
- Look yourself in the mirror. Acknowledge the aspects of you that “need help”. Acknowledge the aspects of you that feel like the underdog and that feel overlooked. Own up to the emptiness inside of you. Find out what you feel deprived of. Come out of denial. Be willing to see your childhood clearly enough to recognize what you were deprived of as a child. If you are thinking, “they need my help”, turn that thought around on yourself in two ways, the first is: “I need my help”. The second is “I need their help”. Open your mind to discovering how you need your help and how you need their help. And get help for that aspect of yourself. Your main focus should be healing the wound within you. If you do this, those wounds will cease to reflect externally in the world around you.
- Know that you can help someone just by being there and being supportive by offering your unconditional presence. The most damaging part of struggle is not the struggle itself, it is going through that struggle alone. Other people often do not need us to fix their problems. What they need us to do is to unconditionally be with them while they navigate their own problems. Think about it, when you were young, you did not need your parents to fix your problems. When they did try to fix your problems, the message you got was that there was something wrong about you. The message that you got was that you needed to change in order to be loved or approved of by them. What you needed was for them to be with you as you navigated those problems unconditionally. You needed understanding and empathy and their presence. And don’t forget, you can also help someone by connecting them with someone else who can help them better than you can. Contributing your energy to someone else in the form of help is an exalted demonstration of love. But this universe is all one, and because of this you are not helping someone if you are hurting yourself in the process.