Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The helper personality scares me...

Some of the scariest people I have ever met are people in helping professions. They're teachers, or therapists, or alt med healers, or whatever. And they have nothing but the best of intentions.

This sounds lovely, but is actually very scary. See, they mean to do good. Often, their entire self concept is built around being a Good Person and their mission in life being Helping People. These are noble goals and all, but when you make them your whole Who You Are, you can become a scary person.

These helpers just cannot wrap their head around the idea that they can mean well all the live long day, but that doesn't mean they are doing well. Some people who are helpers? Their chosen method of helping actively hurts people. And they cannot process this-they are Good People and Help Others, they can't possibly be doing damage! That's the other social skills therapy or whatever, not theirs! They mean well, you see. They are Doing Good. They couldn't possibly be accidentally hurting people!

And they take it as a personal attack. People do not react well to what they perceive as a personal attack, especially against their very core, in this case the idea that they are Good People who are Helping Others. Rather than evaluating if, from the perspective of their victims...uh, clients...they are causing harm, they lash back. They can't wrap their heads around the idea of anything but their intent, as if trying is the same as doing. Their self concept seems to be more important than actually being helpful. It's like it doesn't compute that they could be wrong.

This is really scary. You never know what people are so caught up in this idea, so you don't know how they react if the harsh truth that their chosen therapy hurts people. Unpredictability is scary, as are people who would rather believe I am trying to hurt them because I am an asshole then believe that maybe, just maybe, their intention is not magical.

13 comments:

ratherunique said...

I agree. I have observed that the motivations of many of these people are fueled by narcissism.

They help, not for the benefit of the one receiving the help, but to make themselves feel better and look better.

"Helping" someone can be a way to invoke power, superiority and privilege over them, especially if that person comes to believe that they rely on the helper's "good will" to survive.

Many people that work in help/social work/disability professions go way out of their way in any conversation you have with them to bring up what they do, and what a sacrifice it is.

There are many great people in these professions too to be grateful for no doubt. But the ones that are in it to feed their own egos are dangerous no doubt.

Kerima said...

Thank you :D I hope everyone reads this and gets the message.

Lecy said...

Sometimes they're like mad scientists. They act like they know exactly what they're doing, but inside they're just dying to try out all these interesting little things they've only read about...

SennurUSA said...

Wonderful post Kass, thank you for writing it. It is a good reminder of what not to be.

Draggle said...

I feel I was born to be a helper, but I was also a victim of this mindset you're talking about. The results are whatever it is I am.

Draggle said...

* What I mean is, people with the aforementioned mindset hurt me deeply.

Elissa Dykstra said...

I think that to an extent I have the "helper personality" and I'm about to begin school as an Occupational Therapist. At the same time, being the type of helper you describe scares me. Any advice on how to avoid the mindset and remain open to correction?

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

Elyssa, I don't know how K would answer, but to me the difference can be summed up by "When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird." James Audobon. In other words, believe autistic people when they tell you something. Don't dismiss it because the "book" (theories, therapies, manuals) tell you something else.

chavisory said...

Oh man, I have seen so much of this mindset over the past few weeks, and it is scary. It's something beyond scary, in fact, I just don't have a better word for it.

Reminds me of the quote from CS Lewis: "She's the sort of woman who lives for others. You can always tell the others by their hunted expressions."

Elissa, I would say...never believe that your good intentions make you incapable of doing harm. Even if it's accidental or unknowing. Never believe that just because your training says that something is the right thing to do, or the right way to treat someone, that it must be the right thing for everyone. (Along the lines of "believe the bird, not the book.") What it means that people are all individuals is that the same things often do not work the same for all people. Always believe your client if they object or say they need to stop doing something. Never try to convince anyone that what they're perceiving or feeling isn't true, or isn't serious. Never assume that because something isn't objectionable or painful to you, that it can't legitimately be to someone else--especially as an OT, you'll likely be working with people with a variety of neurological/perceptual issues. Our perceptions can be very different from those of a typical person, but they are *just as real.*

Don't try to trick or lie to kids. Anyone really, but kids with disabilities especially have adults trying to trick and lie to them a lot. You'll make yourself safer by NOT being a person who does that to them.

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace said...

So much this. Ack. All the ack.

Jack said...

The important thing is not to automatically assume the worst in somebody's motivations. They could be genuine, or they may not.

In any case, it's not really "scary". Perhaps a bit annoying, though.

Neurodivergent K said...

Really? how is it not scary. I gave examples. Other people gave examples.

It's very easy to give the benefit of the doubt when the worst consequence of being wrong is that people annoy you. It is very not safe to give people benefit of the doubt when they have any say whatsoever over your life (and continued living)

Emma said...

Here's one of my favourite articles on this very subject: "Do-gooderism: Links, quotes and discussion" by Mel Baggs http://ballastexistenz.wordpress.com/2005/12/21/do-gooderism-links-quotes-and-discussion/