the courage to ask for help and the grace to receive it

June 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

My son is going to through an extended bout of depression and it has left him in debt, in need of dental care, and unable to work. His life is being devastated by a condition that is very hard to pin down, much less admit, or seek help.

My husband and I have offered to sponsor his dental care, to get him into a dentist, get an assessment, and work out a course of treatment. It means a lot to us to help out in this way. My son is very resistant to receiving the help. He feels ashamed that his dental care has fallen to this low and he is loathe to accept our help to get it fixed.

Tonight I asked him what he was afraid of (about getting his teeth looked at by a dentist). He named two fears. First, he was afraid that, even if a course of treatment was worked out and planned, he would be unable to complete it due to circumstances beyond his control. Second, he was afraid that the damage to his teeth is so extensive that he will lose even more teeth. I thanked him for sharing his fears with me. I asked him to continue to let me know what the resistance is, as he becomes aware of his own internal barriers to accepting this care.

We talked about how difficult it is to ask for help, and how difficult it is to receive help. He talked about how male oppression plays a role in his refusal to ask for, or receive, help. I talked to him about what it meant to us to be able to help out someone we love, to be able to contribute to alleviating his suffering. He has tooth pain, probably from an exposed nerve. I explained how relationships that are organized around one way giving and receiving soon become out of balance, because there cannot be reciprocity in the relationship. When reciprocity is missing, the relationship becomes an exercise in control and power. The one who is doing the giving is in the position of control, because they can always decide when and what they will offer in the relationship. The one who is receiving is then powerless in the relationship because their entire role in the relationship is willing acceptance of what is being given. Relationships that are not based on reciprocal giving and receiving are not sustainable because the flow of energy is one directional and under the control of one person. Asking for help and becoming willing to receive help allows energy to flow both ways, and it allows both partners in the relationship to exercise control and feel like an empowered participant in the relationship.

It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or to receive help from the people who love you. It takes great courage to admit you need help and even greater strength to be willing to allow those who love you to help you through tough times. Instead of seeing the need for help or receiving help as an indicator of a character flaw or fatal deficiency, try seeing it as a critical contribution to maintaining relationship harmony and balance. You know that when you are back on your feet you are going to have many opportunities to pay it forward.

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