When "Helpfulness" is Toxic

When is "helpfulness" toxic?

When is help not real help?

Donald's young daughter, Mary, related to him as if he were a god.

She felt almost privileged to be the daughter of a famous multi-millionaire businessman.

Along with her hyper-caretaking Mom, Donald provided his daughter with overflowing luxuries.

Anything he and her Mom thought she wanted.

Even prior to completing college, Donald's "help" to his daughter turned out to be in the form of a super-package: a new car, a new house, and a new bank account.

Mary actually did not have to work for anything. In her life.

Despite her gratitude for her parents' "help" and gifts, Mary felt increasing desperation inside her.

She felt tense and exhausted when she's in the company of her parents.

Right after school graduation, Mary disappeared for months. Refused responding to her parents' calls.

The toxic quality of her parents' "helpfulness" (despite their best intentions) became apparent to Mary.

She resented it when she experienced continued feelings of inadequacy and dependency on them.

And so with it, she'd feel unduly stifled in her growth.

Mary seemed to have had enough of her parents' "helpfulness."

Dr. Jerry Greenwald, in his book "Creative Intimacy," tells us:

"When we are interested in the growth of an intimate other, the most effective way of expressing this, as well as avoiding toxic games of being 'helpful,' is to stand out of the way and not impede the experimentation and self-initiating processes of the other person."

Growth is a process that happens from within a person.

We cannot do the growing for him or her. Even with our caring intentions for the person.

Nor can any other person do the growing for us.

Healthy helpfulness comes from getting out of the way!

We allow the other the opportunity to initiate and experiment with his or her solutions.

In this way, we foster the person's potential self growth.