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Thread: Helping Others: When Enough Is Enough.

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    Roro's Avatar
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    Default Helping Others: When Enough Is Enough.

    "You can't help a person who won't help themselves."


    A well known saying, but I'm curious to see how you all approach it. Is it easy for you to detach yourself from others, regardless as to what your relations are to one another? Perhaps you are one of those who feels a 'duty' to guide others out of their dark spots; but what happens if this person is so far mentally and emotionally gone - do you still follow through in helping them, holding on to some hope for progress, regardless as to whether or not it may hurt you?

    Throughout my childhood, I believed that most could change given appropriate discipline and guidance. This may or may not have been a naive thought, but a part of me still wants to believe that it's true. For me, this is more true when it comes to those I am close to on an emotional level, which in turn raises questions: If they are already in a negative emotional state, how would walking away and leaving them to feel as if their entire support system collapsed help them in the long haul? How often do you believe no support helps a person more than some support?



    For the sake of clarity, I am mostly speaking on attempts to help those who suffer emotionally themselves - whether it be a mental disorder, addictions, etc. - but don't purposely attempt to inflict pain on others.

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    escaping anndelise's Avatar
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    I think this is an area where being a tactical&results type helps. (SFj, NFp)

    When helping someone, it helps to not have a specific end goal in mind, but to imagine different ways that the person's life can begin to improve. Iow, you're not aiming for 100% improvement, but trying to find what kinds of things would take 20% of effort that would lead to 80% effectiveness. For example, William's example with his dad. The bit of social contact and exercise is a small thing that carries a larger impact. Or helping his dad with the garage. Not doing the garage for the dad, but helping the dad. Which led to his father experiencing what it's like to create change for the better. That bit of experience carries over into other areas of life.

    If a person is really down/bad, they might need a bit of prodding. And the idea here is to aim for a "yes" by offering ideas that are so small and require so little effort that the person finds it in themselves to say yes to. Things like "let's go for a walk, we can talk" might be too much effort, so maybe "how about we talk while you put your socks and shoes on" or even, "how about we talk while you sit up in bed". Whatever is an improving step, no matter how small of a step it is. You're not holding the person up, you're not doing the work for them, they are having to put in a tiny bit of effort, but that effort can snowball. Sitting up in bed might lead to getting out of bed might lead to finding socks/shoes, might lead to putting on socks/shoes might lead to short walk might lead to the feeling of being able to take action might lead to getting out of their rut, and so on.

    It helps to be adaptable rather than having a set idea of how things must go.
    And it helps to have a cut off point of just how much effort you are willing to put in towards helping someone. Like the airline warnings that in case of oxygen emergency, put your oxygen mask on yourself first, before helping others get theirs on. Elsewise you're at risk of passing out before you've had the chance to help anyone else....and there's no guarantee anyone else will help You. So, when you're helping someone else, you've got to take care of yourself too! Elsewise you're at risk of burning yourself out. Plus, you'll be modeling how to take care of oneself.

    Inevitably, you will run into people who just don't seem to want to help themselves. The ones who drag down everyone else around them into deep dark pits of emptiness. The ones who, no matter how tiny of a step, won't take it. Perhaps they've gone too deep into despair. Then you can choose to put in more caregiving effort....such as seeing to the grocery shopping, or making them a few meals, or picking up their room for a bit, little improvements to help them feel so not overwhelmed. Or just contact them, leave them notes or messages, letting them know that they aren't alone in this world and that there are people who care. Maybe find a way to even briefly intice their curiosity. Is there an activity/hobby/show they've enjoyed in the past? Talk about it, and encourage them to talk about it too. Sometimes it helps to say something innaccurate about it, which might prompt them to correct you. That little correction might be a huge step for them...it signals regaining of interest, and regaining an impulse to change the external world.

    But the ones who drag others down through manipulation tactics? At that point it might help to either distance yourself, or poke their values a bit. An example i have is of a woman who kept threatening suicide, which gathered some guys who cared around her doing things for her, giving her money, their vehicles, etc etc. After she totally fucked up a really sweet guy's life, and he finally left her, she tried the suicide thing again. It worked on the guys who were already well-trained by this time, but then she tried it on me, to get me to give her stuff and do stuff for her. But by this time I was sick of seeing all the manipulations and I told her to do it...to show her two girls that if a man doesnt want them then life isnt worth living, not even for the sake of their children, just let the kids go into foster care because mommy couldn't live without a man. I knew she was a good mother, and loved her children, and sure enough she got pissed off at me, telling me how she's a good mother and takes good care of her children, how dare i suggest otherwise, blah blah blah. Well, my words had pissed her off so much that it ended the friendship (thank goodness), but I also received calls from her friends thanking me. See now instead of threatening suicide and wearing out her friends, she was pissed off and activated to help herself, to demonstrate a strong person for her girls...and anyone else who would dare suggest she would harm her kids. (Note: proceed with caution on suicide threats, however.)


    Tldr: Ultimately it comes down to...you cannot live their life for them. The best you can do is help them start living their own life, to maybe help them gain some experiences or a different orientation towards their life or a problem. And to maybe help them feel that they aren't alone, that they can seek support and/or assistance and that it will likely be there for them when they do.
    IEE 649 sx/sp cp

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    Sometimes it's hard to see that the kindness that you're giving to others is not what the other person intended of the relationship with you. As Iin you expected that it would be about sharing and not selfishness. Evilness is taking from someone who is kind, throwing them under the bus and giving to someone else who you want to see you as a good person.
    Last edited by Beautiful sky; 07-21-2014 at 04:38 PM.

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    Be selfish but only so much, it really depends where you are at if you should help or not. Good place, help more, bad place, help yourself. Some problems are also insurmountable but quite a lot of problems are not. And it really depends on what the support is as well, material support is different than emotional support, conditional support is different than unconditional support. IMO it's very important to set your own goals for any sort of support to another person, otherwise they have no idea what you want from them. People do change and I have seen it, but it's not guaranteed or easy and I've seen far more fall thru the cracks than change.

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    Stay away from selfish people who only talk and emphasize their needs.

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    William and Ann pretty much summed up most of my beliefs on this issue, not exactly, pretty close.

    I come from a family where we indiscriminately (at times) would take in people who were having problems, drugs, loss of home, emotional... It usually went pretty well but some people would get too secure in the environment (accepting) and sabotage themselves to stay longer. We had ways of dealing with these issues..

    LSI mom: You can stay as long as you are actively job searching at least 4 hours a day and pay me when you get the job.

    EII sister: You can stay as long as you keep the house clean and do not impose your issues on my family. If you negatively effect my peaceful home you are out. Read some Deepak Chopra.

    Me: You can stay as long as you are working on your issues and talking about your problems and not just ignoring the fucked up situation you are in. I was easily pulled into some of their issues and it effected my stability. I feel things too deeply and would seek my own escape from other people's problems.

    At this time I am choosing not to help people by bringing them into my home. I will spend whatever time it takes to find them the resources they need to help them. Shelter, mental health, food and spiritual. I will drive them someplace where they can be helped. I will even drive them someplace that might make things worse only because I don't know what they need to learn in life that will help them later or whatever these fucked up experiences bring.

    I have been in regular therapy for a couple of years and my therapist has told me that I need to stop trying to make everyone else's life wonderful at the expense of my own sanity. She said I can't "become" the person the other person wants me to be. Something I have done since childhood and didn't even know it until a major crisis revealed my real issue.

    I have a tendency to draw people who are more fucked up than me and I just wanted to help them out of their mental hells. In a way they have helped me more than I have helped them. I have a lot of valuable experiences under my belt now. I am able to respond with appropriate action because I saw myself in others and didn't always like what they were showing me about me.

    I think our strong desire to help people comes from being immigrants to this country and we had to rely on others to help us get started and stable. It is a pay it forward mentality in my family.

    Edit: In my family I was the one more likely to interact with people "on their level". My mom and my sister preferred the people to meet them on their level.

    "When I ought to be thinking of heaven he will nail me to earth"

     







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    Thanks for your responses. What needs to happen in these situations is always the easiest part to understand; however, seeing somebody else suffer with an inability to properly cope is the more difficult part.


    For further clarity: Two of my closer relations are experiencing problems of their own - one with Borderline Personality Disorder, and the other with a drug addiction they have yet to realize for themselves. So with the two of them, due to issues stemming much deeper than a bad state of depression, it's not always as easy as helping them clean the house or calling them to say 'hey' in order to lift their spirits. Both threaten suicide on a somewhat regular basis, but not as a manipulation tactic. They are feeling real pain which they have yet to learn how to deal with in a healthy manner, or have yet to realize that moving forward is an option if they allowed for it.

    The hope is that, someday, both will find methods other than drug abuse or self-harm in an effort to cope with their emotional pain. Walking away, however, does not have a place on my 'ways to help' list; I fear that would only hurt them more than help them, and it's hard to blame either of them for trying to find coping mechanisms - no matter how wrong their chosen methods seem to me.



    But this does feel a bit strange to talk about, and I wasn't necessarily meaning for this to be an advice-seeking post. Just your own thoughts, opinions, and proven ways of coping based on what was mentioned in the original post.

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    I agree with you Roro. I would not forgo help to someone who is not in the right state of mind or altered by drug use. Then the person isn't quite aware of what is going on. That's different from someone who does but just doesn't care

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    Most of the following is something I previously wrote for someone asking me about borderline personality disorder.

    ---
    Bipolar is often misunderstood, by the general public, and especially by therapists. From what I've gathered, it's not as badly misunderstood as it used to be.

    As far as I know, medications can't help the borderline problems, but anti-anxieties might help the person gain some limited control over how fast their thoughts switch, how obsessive they might become over something, and give them some more mental/emotional space between their impulses and their actions. (My antianxiety of choice is BuSpar, which tampers down my flying thoughts, allowing me to think more clearly and thus make better choices. It's also nonaddictive and can be taken on as needed basis. It doesn't require a week or more to balance out the system, nor does one need testing to monitor it's levels in the system. I would just take it when I was in, or about to be in, a triggering situation.)

    There are some self-help techniques, and borderline therapy protocols which can be found online. DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) is the typical protocol, with the most success. (Personally I didn't like it as it felt like someone trying to change me from being less like an NeFi to being more like a TiSe.) A friend can use some similar questions during their talks with the borderline person.

    At its basics, Borderline Personality Disorder is a combination of personal and environmental conflicts. IOW, it's not just the borderliner who is broken, their environment is broken as well. When they must interact with that environmental brokeness, the borderliner's issues get triggered.

    Marsha M. Linehan (one of the leaders in studying/helping bpd) proposes that the core disorder of bpd is emotion dysregulation. They are very sensitive to emotional stimuli, have very intense responses to emotional stimuli, and have a slow return to emotional baseline once emotional arousal has occurred. So basically biologically based. In certain environments, this emotional vulnerability can be invalidated, creating a negative spiral, or supported through means of learning beneficial coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms include inhibiting inappropriate behavior (but who considers what inappropriate?), organizing oneself for coordinated action in the service of an external goal (what do they hope to gain from their choices/actions, and is this action a positive way of trying to obtain that?), self-soothing physiological arousal that the strong emotion has induced, and refocusing attention in the presence of strong arousal.

     

    For the self soothing, I instinctively did/do pace...it's actually walking around the block, over and over and over until my body is exhausted and/or my mind finally worked out the emotions or gained a more positive perspective of the situation that led to the intense emotional reaction. I used to walk miles upon miles. Really, any repetitive motion/activity can help. Riding a bicycle in a quiet area, doing a bunch of situps or pushups, punching a bag over and over and over and over until the body/mind are tired enough to let the emotion go. My neighbors got used to seeing me walking, ranting and raving to myself, arms and hands flying all around. Yeah, lol, I'm the crazy neighbor lady. But this helped me use up that energy in a way that wouldn't harm my relationships. It didnt solve the problems, just burned off most of the emotional turmoil.

    Initially that helped, but I knew I needed something more, so I began evaluating my values. Like a situation would happen, I would go "pace", rant and rave to myself, then after I had calmed down I would review what I was upset about, why it upset me, was it worth being upset about, were there any other values involved, prioritize those values, and then figure out a game plan geared toward supporting those higher values. Through this I learned that I tend to walk a fine line between certain values which are in direct conflict with each other. On the one hand X, on the other Y, but X and Y can't function well at the same time. X might be the strongest value in one circumstance, but push it a bit and value Y gets triggered into taking over. For example, with my daughter, I didn't want to be an imposing parent, I grew up with that and didn't want that for my daughter. Which meant I gave her a lot of leeway until finally I would put my foot down and tell her to clean her bathroom/room/dishes/whatever. This would lead to fights between us, both of us having difficulties regulating our emotional reactions, so these fights would very quickly escalate. Thankfully my desire to not put her down stopped most of the nasty things I could have said, or might have said to someone less important to me. To stop the escalation I would order her to her room, and then I would go for a rantrave walk until I calmed down. And when I'd get back inside, she would have ranted/raved enough in her room to have calmed down some. So then I would knock on her door and we would calmly talk about what had been said and done, and what had led up to that point of me finally telling her to do something. We would both usually apologize for hurtful things we may have said or did. And then we would try to figure out how to avoid it from happening again. These talks would end with a hug and reaffirmation of our relationship.



    Aspects of an invalidating environments include an environment that responds erratically and inappropriately to private experience (beliefs, thoughts, feelings, sensations), and in particular to be insensitive to private experience that does not have public accompaniments. Simple things like a child saying she's thristy and a parent saying "no you're not, you just had a drink." Or telling a crying kid to not be a crybaby. Or dismissing something the child is frustrated about as being unimportant. Or when a child says "i did my best", the parent saying "no you didn't". Dismissing a child's preferences, dismissing their fears, thoughts, emotions, etc. none of these things teaches the child how to effectively respond to or handle their experiences. And it leads the child into thinking that there must be something wrong with them, because they are feeling/thinking things that are somehow wrong or not real. Which leads to heightened anxieties in them.

    But this doesn't just happen to children, it happens to adults as well. I once read a book written by a guy who had lived with a woman diagnosed as borderline. The book was his account of how crazy she was and what all he had had to deal with. And throughout the whole book I was getting pissed off at the writer because he kept triggering this woman's insecurities and kept invalidating her by lying to her, hiding things from her, etc. Which would elicite more anxiety, insecurity, and emotional turmoil in her, which he would then dismiss as her just being crazy, or her obsessing over something unimportant. Seriously, this book was the first time that I wanted to look up an author's address, knock on their door, and slug them for being such an ass. He continuously triggered her emotional reactions, but couldn't recognize that he was doing so. Kind of like if someone keeps tapping you on your forehead, you tell them to stop, they say they aren't doing anything...as they continue tap tapping away...so you tell them to stop tapping on your forhead, they say they aren't, you say you can see it and feel it, and still they insist they arent doing anything ...tap tap tap.


    Anyways...having someone the borderliner trusts to talk things out with helps, a lot. Not someone who will automatically join their side nor someone who will coddle them and their feelings/thoughts. But someone who will listen and help them explore the situation and help them gain ideas about how to fix/avoid similar things. This is what therapists are paid to do, but it need not be a therapist. The big thing is that this confidant actively listens, actively tries to understand the problems, and doesn't dismiss its importance nor invalidate its existance.


    DBT works towards developing mindfulness skills, interpersonal effectiveness skills, emotional regulation skills, and distress tolerance skills, in that order. You can actually find a lot of info about dbt online, including worksheets, books, videos, etc.

    Mindfulness helps them figure out "what" is happening. Becoming more aware of when the emotions are raising, what's leading to that, what all might be involved with the situation, and centering themself to help reduce anxieties and the resulting emotional turmoils.

    Emotional regulation skills can include the repetitive movement until tired. I've also used a pulse monitor and learned breathing techniques to relax. As you get emotionally aroused, your heart beats faster and your breaths shorten and become mouth breathing. Learning to breathe through the nose lengthens the breaths, and slows down the heart rate. Breathing in increases sympathetic responses and reactivity, breathing out increases parasympathetic responses and calms the body/mind down. So learning to increase the length of the out breath REALLY helps. I wish I had known this when my daughter was younger! It seriously helps!

    The big part of dbt is devoted to analyzing emotions, thoughts, beliefs, etc. this is what most of the worksheets and therapy talks are about. And this is where i had my greatest difficulties with dbt. Just remember that it took years to develop the problem, and it'll take time to rewire the brain to habitually using a new way of behaving.

    I never got far into the interpersonal effectiveness stuff. But a decent therapist or self-help book can help with that.
    ----

    Hopefully some of the above might give you ideas on how to interact with and/or help this particullar friend.
    IEE 649 sx/sp cp

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