So much of the suffering I witness is due to the difficulty and even impossibility of asking for help. Even at one’s deepest moment of need, asking for help might not enter one’s thoughts. This is a common theme in my work of helping others. Why is this?
We continue to believe that asking for help equates to weakness, being too much for others, or being a burden. Is it about the possibility of rejection? That our needs might seem bottomless? Are we afraid to trust? Or is it intimacy? At what point in our life did we learn it was best to hide what we need? And why is this notion going unquestioned when we need help the most?
To ask for help, we need to accept a certain level of vulnerability, and to be in contact with our needs. But do to messages we gathered from early relationships with caregivers or, more broadly, to western cultural attitudes and unquestioned notions of self-reliance, we’ll try everything we can to avoid even thinking about our needs.
Often, needs are buried beneath years or decades of a successful, largely unconscious, defensive stance. Successful because self-reliance can get us a long way. It may feel good to know we don’t have to count on anyone. Yet so many of us suffer from a confusing and profound sense of aloneness.
Friends, family, work success, may not be enough to resolve the frightening and deadening emptiness resulting from trying to do it all on our own. We arrive at the point in which it’s time to question why we’ve been trying over and over to get away from this feeling.
This moment, however frightening or loathsome, however we might try to push it away, is an opportunity. It’s time to open the gate, even if just for a moment, and face the demon, the demon that grows and maintains power over us as long as we keep the gate shut.
If we can open this gate, we might find that the threat has been an illusion. That what we’ve defended against and feared the most already happened a long time ago. That it’s the fear of it happening again, or even the fear of fear that keeps us stuck.
Asking for help, feeling your need for help, can be your most challenging moment. You may come up against deep internal conflict. That fear voice inside might be screaming, “Don’t do it!” But here’s an opportunity to try something new. Here’s an opportunity to express yourself. Here’s an opportunity to more fully connect with another and, most importantly, with yourself.
Derron Santin, M.F.T.
2471 Washington Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
The office is located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, near Fillmore street.
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