If someone we love or care about has experienced a significant loss, we want to help. We may even feel the need to help. As a friend we can provide enormous support, encouragement, and hope. One way we can err with a friend or colleague, however, is in feeling too invested in “helping.”
I can think of two people I felt the need to help. One person I thought had to be in distress was the sister of someone who took their own life. I don’t remember the situation of the other person, but I initiated the contact to both out of concern for their suffering. But in both cases I felt driven by my need. In both cases, I also came away feeling frustrated because, in the end, what I thought prevented me from fully understanding how the other person felt.
As a counselor, when people came to me with a problem, or with a decision they had to make, I don’t recall feeling that way. I listened, took their struggles to heart, and collaborated with them on a plan to help. I found the process worked well, and the person “graduated,” leaving counseling better than when they came. In this type of encounter, motivation from the sufferer drove their progress and increased my effectiveness.
How have you experienced frustration trying to help someone you care about? To what would you attribute that frustration?