If we perpetually seek some outer approval for our actions, we will never consciously walk our own road. ~Caitlin Matthews, “The Familiar Road,” The Celtic Spirit
All the advice in the world will never help you until you help yourself. ~Fred Van Amburgh
One of the more frustrating things for me to encounter in clients and in the world at large are people who seek my help repeatedly but who really don't want any advice. What they are primarily searching for in a miracle solution that requires no effort on their part; they also want attention. A friend who is a therapist has dubbed this phenomenon “help rejecting complainers.” That term sums up the issue rather concisely.
With clients, it’s not as frequent of an issue: they’re paying me, so it’s their own money they are wasting, and most people are aware of that. Because of my sensitivity to this issue, though, I will be politely blunt with a client if they’re not applying themselves enough for us to make progress. I don’t force clients to book on a particular schedule for follow up appointments. They can come back whenever they feel they are ready to move forward. However, if they are seeking to get me to do all their work without applying themselves at all, then I ask that they not book further appointments until they’ve worked on their “homework” a bit more. A big part of what I do is help people to learn to listen to their intuition and help themselves. It’s not an overnight process, but most people will move forward at a pace that is appropriate for them. Without following through on any of the suggestions I provide for their issues or on intuition of their own, though, the client can't usually move forward in a positive direction.
I have run into this situation numerous times in the world at large as well. Prior to starting my business, there were several women in one of my internet groups who would regularly approach me for free advice about issues in their lives, often related to their physical health. These women have very legitimate health issues, and I believe them entirely about those health struggles. However, a very predictable pattern arose with these women: they would seek my help, I would send them detailed email messages, and then they would ignore everything I said. Sometime later, they would email me again letting know me what they had done. Inevitably their independent decisions would cause issues for them, so then they wanted me to not only fix the subsequent problems, but they would ask me for new advice to fix the original problem. However, my answers wouldn’t change. Just because they didn’t like the advice I had given them the first time doesn't mean the answer would magically have changed over the few months or by asking again. In this case, it truly feels like a waste of my time and energy to help.
In particular, there are several women in the group whom I suspect may have a variation of Münchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition where parents, usually mothers, create illnesses in their children to gain attention. In the case of the women I am acquainted with, none of them intentionally harm themselves or their children to my knowledge; I would be morally obligated to report them to child protective services if I thought that was the case. These women don’t consciously want the health problems that are making their lives a mess, yet at the same time, the mothers thrive on the attention they can obtain from the health struggles that they and their children face. They often turn to me and others seeking advice in order to get attention. In one case, the mother asked me questions for which I knew she already knew the answers. Having grown up with a narcissistic mother who behaved in this way, I also am aware of this pattern from personal experience.
At times like these, my willingness to help wears thin rather quickly. One of the life lessons I had to learn around this was in regard to setting boundaries. I am an empath and an intuitive; I’m also an INFJ. For most who fit in these categories, we want to help others. It’s part of our nature, so much so, that unless we set boundaries, we may be taken advantage of or abused. As a result, I’ve learned that there are times when I just have to say no. As much as I want to help others, I’m not willing to let them overtask my generosity. Thus, I no longer wrote long emails to help these attention seekers, instead substituting very brief responses. When I stopped giving them the attention they wanted, these women no longer felt a need to frequently ask me for help, especially once I mention that I now have a business where I charge people who need large amounts of my time. (I do still regularly answer short questions for free for established clients, friends, and community members.)
All practitioners experience this phenomenon to an extent with certain clients, though it’s definitely not the most common client scenario. Those who are paying for help generally do want to heal. However, some people are attention seekers, and they will try to get attention from whomever they can, even if it means paying for it. When they are willing, these people can be helped to find the attention they seek through healthier means by working on their minds and spirits while also healing their bodies. However, the choice to heal is one that only an individual can make. No one can successfully force healing or change on another. As quoted above, "All the advice in the world will never help you until you help yourself."
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC