“Misguided Helper” is the name one very wise person gave to that tendency we all have at times to react in a way that is intended to protect us from pain, but only causes further suffering.
We’ll call her MH for short. She means well and she’s doing her best, but there comes a time for many of us that we begin to realize she is no longer really serving us – if she ever did.
MH is concerned for our safety, happiness and wellbeing, but her choices and actions tend to shrink our worlds. She closes us off to opportunities in her hyper-vigilance to danger. She rigidly favors doubt over trust. She distracts and self-medicates us against life’s difficulties, making it more difficult for us to respond effectively. She criticizes and berates us in an effort to motivate us to be better. She ruminates on the perceived mistakes of the past and possible future catastrophes to try to prevent bad things from happening to us. She believes she can know the hearts of others, judging and categorizing them in attempt to shore us up and prevent us from being hurt. Ultimately she sacrifices love and vitality for the illusion of safety, diminishing our capacity to experience joy.
We can reserve a warm place in our hearts for MH, while declining to indulge in her troublesome habits. This takes awareness, openness, willingness, patience and persistence – the very opposite of MH’s inclinations. We have to develop the courage to resist her superstitious behavior so we can see things as they really are. In this way, we can begin to break out of outdated or rigid response patterns and make wise choices based on facts, rather than purely on emotion. So, the next time you notice MH making her appearance, give her a warm hug, thank her for her good intentions, and let her know you will be taking the lead instead.
If you’d like to learn how to recognize, embrace and release your Misguided Helper, you might consider taking a Mindful-Self Compassion (MSC) course. MSC is an 8-week program that teaches participants skills needed for greater awareness in the present moment of their own distress or suffering so they can respond with kindness and wisdom. Research is showing that self-compassion is correlated with greater happiness and wellbeing, decreased anxiety and depression. I occasionally co-teach this course in partnership with the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness.