Letting People Help

Not asking for assistance is seen as a virtue in too much of our world. False pride or fear of rejection causes many to avoid even just an inner acceptance of the fact that they could use the help of another person to improve their life. Many avoid even letting their friends know what they are feeling, thinking or doing, if they let themselves have a friend. Few even take the chance of making friends with their mate, if they let themselves mate. Revealing oneself to any other or even to oneself is often avoided as if it will make one too vulnerable to attack.

Our American culture of "ask no help" developed partly due to the utter lonely alienation from the foreign lands most of us came from. Whether we arrived on these shores by our choice or someone else’s force we were a people cut off from all that had been important to us and which possibly was a support to us. If we were able to exercise choice and freedom in our endeavors we then had some chance to use some of our inner strengths to control our environment. The cultural and geographic environment may have had little familiar support or warmth that we could turn to. Family and friends were months and at least 3,000 or more miles away. We had to keep it all to ourselves. Even our former culture may not have allowed people to discuss their hurts with each other.

If we were slaves, we had no chance to exercise positive control over our life. We could only control our reactions, which also taught us to hold back the expressions of distress that might have allowed us to secure assistance. Those natural expressions could have brought us harm from those who controlled our lives.

However, even now, the illusion particularly amongst men, of having to take care of everything alone has a strong hold upon our culture. Asking for help has been viewed as a weakness rather than a strength. Women were sometimes allowed to voice some few inner needs without losing their pride and were more easily able to seek help. Actually, most men are brought to medical or psychological help by the women in their lives.

If one’s parents could not help one because they could not understand or accept what had to be done, said or felt in order to help them we may have learned to feel that we are beyond help. We learned to think that one "should" not ask for assistance or understanding, a sad alienating attitude. Indeed, if our culture or family were resentful of our necessary requests for help, we may have unconsciously learned to hide our own needs since their expression caused us pain from those very persons that we needed the help from.

We may have been made to feel inferior for needing help in spite of the reality that all of us need it in some way at some time. If our parents were hurt by their parents when they requested assistance, then the chances are that we are passing on that difficulty to our children in some way. We may be intrusively helping them too much or not responding with comfortable intimacy of a respectful, joyful, freeing kind.

Usually if we have not been related to with comfortable intimacy then we will select a mate or relationship that repeats that pattern which we learned, without realizing that we are doing it. Even if we realize what we are doing we may not allow ourselves to make the inner connections that might help us to improve our life. To avoid feeling the pain of our life we may try to avoid the knowledge of it that might help us.

No one can solve all of life’s deeper problems alone. Seeking psychotherapy can be the beginning of some hope for those who can hope.

Dr. Arnold and Maxine Lehrer
Clinical Psychologist
Associates in Psychotherapy, P.A.