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#340930 - 09/27/10 11:11 AM The "Helper" Syndrome
Curtis St. John Offline
Past President
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 1796
Loc: Westchester, N.Y.
This described me for a long while and I thought others my find it useful.

The "Helper" Syndrome

Ezra Bayda cautions us to take a closer look at our true motivations.


By Ezra Bayda

In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character wakes up every morning in the same exact place, at the same exact time, always having to repeat the same day—Groundhog Day. No matter what he experiences, he still wakes up having to repeat the day. No matter what he does, he can’t get what he wants, which in this case is the sexual conquest of his female colleague. Although he tries all of the other classic strategies of escape, nothing works; he still wakes up the next day to the same mess.

In the meantime, another part of him is growing. He starts moving from just trying to fulfill his own desires to doing things for other people. For example, every day he saves the same child from falling out of the same tree at the same time. He even starts using his once egodriven accomplishments, such as playing the piano, to entertain others, not just to serve himself. Finally, not through purposeful effort or even awareness, he becomes more and more life-centered, less and less self-centered. And in typical Hollywood fashion, he gets the girl. However, his real success lies in breaking free from the repeating patterns of his personality.

One of the themes of practice is the gradual movement from a self-centered life to a more life-centered one. But what about our efforts to become more life-centered—doing good deeds, serving others, dedicating our efforts to good causes? There’s nothing wrong with making these efforts, but they won’t necessarily lead us to a less self-oriented life. Why? Because we can do these things without really dealing with our “self.” Often our efforts, even for a good cause, are made in the service of our desires for comfort, security, and appreciation. Such efforts are still self-centered because we’re trying to make life conform to our picture of how it ought to be. It’s only by seeing through this self—the self that creates and sustains our repeating patterns—that we can move toward a more life-centered way of living.

Frequently, our natural impulse to do good deeds is confused with other motives. This is not surprising, considering how often we’re given the message, especially in our early years, that to do good means to be good.

In being told we’re good when we’re helpful, we receive the praise we crave. Yet once we confuse helpful behavior with our own needs, we’re locked into a pattern that undermines our genuine desire to do good.

When I was six years old, I lived in an apartment house on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My father owned a retail store about two miles down the boardwalk. During the tourist season, he would work fourteen hours a day. Since he couldn’t come home for supper, every night my mother would make him a hot meal and put it in a brown paper bag. My job was to carry this bag in the basket of my tricycle and deliver it to my father while it was still hot. I can still see myself—a very earnest little boy single-mindedly speeding down the boardwalk on my tricycle so that my father could have a hot supper. There’s no doubt that I felt a natural desire to do good. But somewhere along the line, perhaps from repeatedly being praised as a “good boy,” my natural desire to do good became enmeshed with getting my father’s approval and love.

We all have our own version of this syndrome because when we’re children we have a biological imperative to maintain the approval and love of our caregivers, whatever it takes. The problem arises when, as adults, we’re still living out of the same old pictures—particularly of how we should be—without awareness of what’s behind our need to help. Do we need to be seen as a helper? Do we need to feel and believe that we are, in fact, a helper? Do we need to see people as benefiting from our help? Or do we serve in order to be seen as a worthy person? Are we helping out of a sense of “should”? Can we see how attached we are to our self-image, our identity? Who would be we without it? What hole are we trying to fill with it? How are we trying to avoid the insecurity of groundlessness?

When our cover identity starts breaking down because the hole isn’t being filled—for example, when we don’t get the recognition that we want or the results that we hope for—we react emotionally, with some form of disappointment or anxiety. This reaction is an infallible practice reminder that we’re still attached in some way. We’ve gone from being a helper to experiencing the core hole of helplessness. But we must reside in and practice with this helplessness in order to become free.

Most of our life is spent using behavioral strategies to cover or avoid our pain—the deep sense of basic alienation that takes the form of feeling worthless, hopeless, or fundamentally flawed in some way. When our strategy is to help, when we need to be helpful, this requires that we need to find people who seem helpless, or situations that seem to call for help. It’s true that we may also have a genuine desire to help—one that isn’t based on our needs—but whenever we feel an urgency or longing to help, it’s often rooted in the fear of facing our own unhealed pain. If our basic fear is that we’ll always be alone, what better way to avoid it than to find someone who needs us? If we have an underlying feeling of worthlessness, how better to prove that we’re worthy than by doing good deeds? If we’re trying to avoid the feeling of being fundamentally powerless or ineffectual, doesn’t it make sense to take on the identity of someone who can affect people and outcomes positively through service?

The “helper” syndrome I’m describing is not outwardly harmful. What makes it dangerous is its potential to keep us blind to what is really going on. Yet it’s easy to see how this lack of awareness, multiplied throughout our society, could lead to the social and political chaos that we live in. Failure to work with our inner turmoil—our need for power, our self-centered desire to possess, our fear-based greed and need to control—results in hatred, aggression, and intolerance. This is the source of all conflicts and wars. Without inner understanding, individuals as well as societies will continue to flounder. This is why it is so important for each of us to come back again and again to the practice of awareness.

We first must recognize that we’re using our identity to live a life based primarily on finding some measure of comfort and security. But we also have to experience the core pain out of which this drive arises. The more we can learn to reside in this core pain, the more we connect with our innate compassion. Interestingly, this experience may not manifest as what we conventionally consider compassion. There is one story of a seeker who, upon clearly seeing the truth—where he was no longer defined and confined by his self-images—became a cab driver. Like a white bird in the snow, he was able to give himself to others simply through his own presence, his being. There was nothing special about his situation.

The question is: Where in our life do we do good, at least in part, to subtly solidify the self? Where do we get in our own way? Where do we use even our identity as a spiritual seeker, or the comfort of being part of something bigger, to cover the anxious quiver of being?

In a way, we all keep waking up to the same repeating day, living our hazy notion of life—often clouded by our unending confusion and anxiety. Simply doing good deeds, or even being a devoted meditator, doesn’t mean anything without the painful honesty that’s required to look at what we’re doing. We must take our heads out of the ground and look at all of the ways we get in our own way—fooling ourselves and obstructing the possibility of living a more open and genuine life.

Ezra Bayda has been a student f Zen since 1978. He currently leads a meditation group in Santa Rosa, California. Excerpted from At Home in the Muddy Water, © 2003 by Ezra Bayda. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications.



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#340997 - 09/28/10 10:14 AM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: Curtis St. John]
Dewey Offline
Member

Registered: 11/13/02
Posts: 137
Loc: the sunshine state
Wow, quit reading my mail will ya'? Right where I'm living right now. With a double emphasis on the pain part!
Dan

_________________________
I refuse to use my past as an excuse to not have a future.
My hero Dad; Trigger warning- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi3Hyxuf5AE

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#341073 - 09/29/10 11:16 AM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: Dewey]
kidneythis Offline


Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1558
This is typical Asian philosophy based on beligerent refusal to genuinely look at and accept oneself as human. By the time one it 12 one should be able to see through this.
My first temptation was to quote this and parse it paragraph at a time. I'll leave that for others to do for themselves.
I'll say this;
Doing good deeds and feeling good about the praise one gets for it is the proper reason for doing the deed. The praise is the proper reward for the deed.
Feeling bad about not recieving praise for the deed tells one that one is not doing the deed for the deeds sake. This is where one either decides to teach oneself how to do good for people who do not appreciate and reward it anyway or one stops doing it for that person.
None of this has anything to do with the model above which is an elaborate manipulation to convince a person they are intrinsically defective. All people want to get the praise they have earned by doing good things. That is the proper reward and motivation to continue doing good things. All people initially feel bad when they do not get this reward. It is a sign of the level of maturity, level of growth, and character of the person how they react to this. That does not mean they should be labeled with or by that reaction forever (which is the intent of most fields of Asian thought, trying to impose permanency on the world) since all healthy people change and grow over time.

The other thing is "you can't get here from there". That will make sense as you parse the thing.

_________________________
As Mark Twain once quipped, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

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#341085 - 09/29/10 12:40 PM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: kidneythis]
Curtis St. John Offline
Past President
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 1796
Loc: Westchester, N.Y.
Well actually, Asian philosophy is geared toward accepting oneself as human and accepting oneself as is. This is the point, being who you are and doing deeds for the sake of doing them. There is no one there to praise me for helping a turtle across the road but I do it anyway... I don't say to myself, "Well, nothing in it for me so screw it."

Nothing above is trying to convince anyone is intrinsically defective... again, it's the opposite, you are fine as is... nothing to prove.

And Asian thought tries to teach Impermanence not permanency. Nothing is permanent and when we realize this and accept it, we won't suffer the pain of attachment when change arises.

Also, we have to keep in mind that different philosophies and thoughts that work for one person don't always work for another... which is why there is more than one path of spirituality and no magic pill in SA recovery.


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#341109 - 09/29/10 05:44 PM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: Curtis St. John]
kidneythis Offline


Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1558
Originally Posted By: Curtis St. John
Well actually, Asian philosophy is geared toward accepting oneself as human and accepting oneself as is. This is the point, being who you are and doing deeds for the sake of doing them. There is no one there to praise me for helping a turtle across the road but I do it anyway... I don't say to myself, "Well, nothing in it for me so screw it."


This is typical of the groundless self serving nature of the meritless philosophy.
Here you have made an argument that changes the original statement to which I replied as if I had replied to this new argument. BTW I said what you retorted to me. Apparently saying it plainly makes it too hard to see or you unconsciously or not tried to pull a reversal on me.
Your original post specifically says and advocates against what you have claimed in your rebuttal is the intent of it. That too is part and parcel of the meritless philosophy. You probably aren't even aware you have done this. That too is an effect of not thinking this way.
Your original post advocates for the idea that no one ever does anything to help anyone or thing w/o getting a reward for it. And that reward and the good feelings that come from it are bad. That is the part where it is implying subtly you are defective.
In effect saying no good deed is a good deed. That smug litttle "There is no one there to praise me.." is the reward in EXACTLY the same way praise is. The difference being you give it to yourself. How does that make any sense?
I pointed out how the good feeling from being complimented on doing good deeds acts as motivation to keep children doing good deeds and when finding one doesn't feel good when there is no reward one learns, or should, that one is not doing the deed for the sake of doing something good and then learns to be introspective about oneself and gets to choose to continue to do good things or not. I left it for granted that a parental figure would be present to help the child navigate this path.
Asian Philosophy is geared to subjugating the individual/self into nothingness and calling it acceptence using circuitous and illogical expressions of "thought". It is based on the idea that people do not and cannot change and discourse, if there is any at all, often degenerates either into violence or purposeful shunning, to squelch anyone with the temerity to try to improve themself or worse teach another how to think for themself. Your belief that this is not true is an imagined or encouraged false perception of the general asian philosophy of life.
All the largest religions from asia are based on imutable freezing of one into a class from birth no matter what a person can do, that person will always be that class. There is no changing ones position unless one hides who one is by birth or moves away to a new place. God forbid you can be visually identified as being from a particular class, then the only hope is to leave asia. It is rife with imposed classes, racism, and looking down at people with a false pretense of paternalism or sense of superiority.
Its all calculated to divorcing oneself from the natural and important feelings of attachment and caring we feel for one another naturally. This is a way to cope with the manipulations of cruel people, and the pain of living. Rather than learning to have boundaries, something they don't seem to have ever thought of, they choose to obliterate the self. If there is no self there is no pain. Then you can't hurt me.
It is all as if a child without adult guidance and teaching, worked out a way to stop feeling the pain the world caused him not knowing any better. Supressing one's feelings always fails.

It is not a matter of working for one and not another its a matter of one being oriented to the human condition and coping with it as it is and the other is all about shutting down development of the self and calling that development by pretending whatever self soothing story they tell is reality.



Edited by kidneythis (09/29/10 05:48 PM)
_________________________
As Mark Twain once quipped, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

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#341112 - 09/29/10 06:06 PM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: kidneythis]
Curtis St. John Offline
Past President
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 1796
Loc: Westchester, N.Y.
ok.


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#341175 - 09/30/10 02:06 PM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: Curtis St. John]
kidneythis Offline


Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 1558
.



Edited by ModTeam (09/30/10 09:22 PM)
Edit Reason: Comments removed by Modteam to conform with site guidelines.
_________________________
As Mark Twain once quipped, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

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#341182 - 09/30/10 02:50 PM Re: The "Helper" Syndrome [Re: kidneythis]
Curtis St. John Offline
Past President
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 01/20/04
Posts: 1796
Loc: Westchester, N.Y.
It's clear you don't agree with me and that's fine.

I don't understand when it became cool to simply outright aggressively insult and put down people here in the discussion board...

It is obvious we don't agree, I'm not going to strike back in some insulting or aggressive fashion and I'm not going to sit here taking your abuse, so I'm leaving the conversation.

Anyone who has met me knows and can tell you I am not smug, passive aggressive or aggressive. I'm sure if we met at a malesurvivor event such as the conference you would see things differently.


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