Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

But I Only Want To Help!

From Renjith Krishnan at Free Digital Photos
A friend recently pointed me to an interesting article on the "need to fix."  While, IMO, this article mixes up OCPD controlling traits (the obsessive need to have every thing, person, and place "perfect'' or "correct'' in order for one to become comfortable enough to be relaxed and accepting of them) with co-dependent "helping" traits, it did have some good points.
And yes, this has long been a weakness of mine, trying to help/rescue those I perceived to be in need, whether they asked for my assistance or not.  Such as OCPD ex b-f, though he didn't want or appreciate my "help."

I found this section particularly insightful:
What irrational thinking leads to the need to fix?  Examples of irrational thinking which leads you to the need to fix other people, places or things are:

* When you have the resources materially, emotionally, intellectually and energy-wise, you should always be ready to share these with others less fortunate than you whom you perceive to be in need of help and assistance.
* You should never stand by and not get involved when you see someone hurting and in need.
* You are rewarded in so many ways for the sacrifices that you make to help others and it is a straight path to heaven if you give to others without any hesitation.
* You should give insights from your life experiences whenever you find someone in a similar situation.
* You should never wait for a person to ask for help since so many people are shy when it comes to admitting they don't know what to do with their lives.
* It is impossible to ignore a plea for help especially when it comes from someone who is obviously "helpless.''
* It is a real sign of your personal growth that, after a time in recovery, you can have the insights, answers, solutions, and clarity of direction for everyone with whom you come in contact.
* You can burn yourself out just focused on your own personal growth so to revitalize yourself you should get involved with other people's problems to give you a better perspective on your own problems.
* What will others think of you if you don't offer help to someone who is obviously in need?
* Your meaning and purpose in life will be threatened if you are not needed to fix, rescue, or help someone.
* Being a "fixer'' is not something which you want to avoid being because it is the only way you have ever gotten people to recognize and to accept you.
For the rest of the Livestrong article, go to this link.

I'm trying to develop the same kind of allergic reaction to use of the word "should" when applied to myself or others, as some of my friends do to my cat.

The issue of "helping" and "fixing" reminded me of the butterfly story.

There are many, many stories of the man who "helped" the butterfly out of the cocoon.  I like this version, from Butterfly Medicine:
A man found a cocoon of a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly. He took it home so that he could watch the Butterfly come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the Butterfly for several hours as the Butterfly struggled to force the body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. It just seemed to be stuck. Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the Butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The Butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the Butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the little Butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the Butterfly to get through the tiny opening was the way of forcing fluid from the body of the Butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the Butterfly of a struggle, he deprived the Butterfly of health.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If we were to go through our life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. Give every opportunity a chance, leave no room for regrets.
I am working really hard to recognize when a "helping" opportunity comes my way, and to be more mindful of it, and to choose what I want to do.  When one of the people at work don't know how to do something and ask for help, instead of saying, "Stand back, watch and I'll show you," I have them sit down at the computer, and have them perform the new task, step by step, so it gets into their hands and brains. 

When a volunteer group with which I was heavily involved, a few years ago, begged for help, my first reaction was, I should help - sign me up!  Luckily, I didn't actually open my big mouth and SAY so.  Upon reflection, I realized that's not how I want to spend my time right now, so I've declined doing more for the group than offering occasional advice.

It's going to take a lot of practice, but I am mentally hiding my butterfly scissors and concentrating on the 51% rule - that is, making sure I get at least 51% of my own time, energy, and focus.  (More on the 51% rule at Out of the Fog.) 

As opposed to knocking myself to "help" everyone else, and then in my own life, to employ a farm colloquialism, sucking hind teat.  Which is how I used to end up, and then resentful because too often my unsolicited "help" wasn't even appreciated!

Is there anybody you "help" or "fix" too much?
You could help ME by leaving a comment.
(That's a joke, but I would still welcome your comment.)