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In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I explore the difference between help and support (yes, there is one!).

Why is this topic so important? Not knowing which is which or doing what might be good things for the wrong reasons, busts our boundaries (and those of others). We deplete our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual bandwidth.

I talk to so many people who desire a loving relationship and who are also eager to break the cycle of dysfunction. What you have to recognise when you’re in that situation and your help/support is turning you into your partner/spouse’s mommy/daddy/babysitter/hider of their responsibilities, is that you can’t be partner or spouse at the same time. Conflicting agendas.

Genuine help and support never has to be at the expense of anyone’s boundaries and self-worth. Nat LueSome nuggets about help versus support from the episode:

  • We make too close an association between what we are doing and what we believe should happen. For example, my mother keeps expecting one of my brothers to fundamentally change who he is because she keeps doing nice things for him. And then feels hurt when he behaves as he typically does.
  • We can’t say that we’re going to surrender or relinquish control of a situation only to then try to monitor or micro-manage things out of fearfulness of what might happen and not being able to trust in life a little.
  • With help, it’s about working alongside a person to achieve a common aim. Or doing something that they can’t, possibly because we (or they) have more knowledge, expertise, capability. 

  • If it’s not obvious about what form our help is taking, we need to ask ourselves what we think that person is not capable of being or doing if we are not there.
  • If we don’t have the option of saying no or offering up input as to how we want to be helped, then [what the other person is offering] isn’t help.
  • Support is distinguished from help by whether there is the intention and attitude of assisting with a view to empowering that person to figure things out. 

  • When we offer our support to someone, we’re saying, “I am here for you” and “I am rooting for you”. Sometimes support is mostly emotional. The person knows that they have our vote and that they can call on us.
  • The person looking to be told what to do, for someone to tell them what the solution is, or to possibly have someone else do the legwork, interrupts their learning. They inadvertently (or consciously) pass on responsibility.
  • A really good litmus test for ascertaining whether support (or help for that matter) is within healthy boundaries, is to check in with us about how we will feel when that person doesn’t need us as much or at all in the future.
  • Got Florence Nightingale inclinations? Your efforts will be far more appreciated and boundaried by 1) taking up volunteering and 2) ensuring that you help yourself.
  • The degree to which you are ignoring you is reflected in where you are over-invest in other people.

  • Help and support is a natural and important part of a relationship, but it can’t be the primary motivation for the relationship. You can’t base our self-worth on it and it can’t be the bread and butter of the relationship. If it is, resentment is guaranteed. No one wants to be babied, pitied, or to feel as if they’re playing mommy or daddy to a grown-up.
  • Further exploration: What is your role within relationships? Is there a theme? What’s the baggage behind your helper role? Where and why did you learn to do this? What are you trying to get? What is unaddressed within you? How could you take what you do for others and apply it to you?
  • Getting clear about your intentions helps you to be more mindful and grounded.
  • Distinguish between desire and obligation, and desire and trying to ‘get’ something.

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