The Helper

hamster-wheel

All signs point to the fact that I’m a helper.

A giver.

The right-hand.

Over the past twenty-five years I’ve taken test after test and read book after book: Myers Briggs, Enneagram, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, astrology, the color code, you name it, and continually found that I’m the helper. Hell, I was even born on the same day as Mother “Fucking” Teresa.  Oh, and Mother Teresa is also an INFJ. (Just hammering it home, people.)

Type 2 on the Enneagram: The Helper

According to this site, “Twos are warm, emotional people who care a great deal about their personal relationships, devote an enormous amount of energy to them, and who expect to be appreciated for their efforts. They… thrive in the helping professions… Helping others makes Twos feel good about themselves; being needed makes them feel important; being selfless, makes Twos feel virtuous… Because Twos are generally helping others meet their needs, they can forget to take care of their own. This can lead to physical burnout, emotional exhaustion and emotional volatility.”

Ya think?

Here is how most of the relationships in my lifetime have played out, with friends, families, boyfriends, the post man, the clerk at the gas station, the teenager bagging my groceries, my dog…

My Refrain:

What do you need?

I’m here.

Let me get it for you.

I can jump that high. Count on me.

I can cross those level 10 rapids wearing my tattered pea coat and purple galoshes, you just relax. I’ve got this.

Hmmm… that doesn’t feel so good to me but here it is anyway. Take it, I’m yours.

Refrain.

Refrain.

Refrain.

Refrain ad infinitum.

Ah, you’ve hurt my feelings but I don’t want to inconvenience you or make you feel bad by telling you. Besides, I’m probably just being ridiculous. I want to be sure your feelings aren’t hurt. I can handle anything so it’s better if I hurt than if you hurt.

Refrain.

Refrain.

I need something. Someone to talk to. I’m suffering. I’m not happy. I’m burnt out. My feelings are crushed. Oh, but Dear God, I can’t ask. I would never ask. You need to be a mind reader and know that I’m not doing well. Just like I sense, intuitively, when you’re not doing well. Your intuition should be as developed as mine.

I get nothing. (And yet I’ve asked for nothing.)

I’m hurt.

I withdraw.

I’m done. I sever ties with an x-acto knife and deathly precision.

Myers-Briggs Type INFJ

According to this site, “While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.”

The end.

New relationship.

Refrain.

Repeat.

Hamster Wheels

I’m ready to get off the helper hamster wheel, folks. Don’t get me wrong. I love me; my personality; my nature. I own it. It’s what enables me to serve the chock-full-of-Amazeballs clients that I work with. It’s meant that I’ve been a great friend, a great girlfriend, a great human bean (much of the time.)  But it’s also meant that I often feel unfulfilled, empty, alone and miserable.

Why?

Because I expect people to be psychic. I assume people are as intuitive as I am, that they should feel  and sense what I’m feeling like I do for them. I don’t ever ask for what I need. Shit, often I don’t even think about what I need until it’s too late and I realize that my cup is dry as a bone even though I never asked for a drop to parch  my withered soul.

My dear friend, Lissa Rankin, first clued me in to my neurosis when she was talking with me about negotiating sacred contracts. When you’re in a sacred relationship with someone it’s important to ask for what you need, to have permission to say no when the other person asks something of you that doesn’t fill you up, and to practice acceptance when the person you’re asking something of says “no.”

Holy shit, how healthy is that? I hardly knew what to do with myself.  I could see that my relationships, up till then, had been full of my giving to others and their needs and my silence of my own needs.  I realized that, while I was happy to be there for friends who needed me, I had never actually said, “I need for you to listen to me on something I’m going through.” Or… even plainer.  “I need a fairer ratio. We can chat about your ‘issues’ for 45 minutes but I need at least 15 minutes to vent my own frustrations.” No, instead I would sit for hours on the phone, listening and holding sacred space and was lucky if there was a “how are you doing” at all. Even when I was going through big shit in my life. Like when I had just had organs removed and couldn’t sit upright and I didn’t ask to talk about it. Instead I spent three hours listening to the woes of a relationship with an asshole that wasn’t deserving of my friend in the first place.   But… the “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” is on me. Because I never asked. Because I never considered the fact that relationships are simply contracts.  Contracts that need to be negotiated and, over time, renegotiated if they’re to have any shelf life at all.  Wow, people. Big stuff, eh?

I don’t know about you but I’m pulling out my red felt-tip marker and going over my contracts posthaste. What sacred contracts do you need to revise?

8 replies
  1. Avatar
    Midge says:

    My story used to be like yours, but then I backlashed a little (okay, maybe a lot) too far in the selfish sort of direction. Now, my middle-aged self hopes I’ve found some semblance of balance through open-hearted, kind and loving words and actions (and reactions). I think we all need to review and renew our sacred contracts just about continuously. Thanks for the wise and witty post, Melanie.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Dear Midge,

      I’m discovering, as I sit back and reflect on it, that I too backlashed in a pretty severe way. I hope to find the balance that you’re talking about, I certainly don’t want to do that again.

      Thanks so much for making me think, love.

      xoxo
      Melanie

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    AZD says:

    “I want to be sure your feelings aren’t hurt. I can handle anything so it’s better I hurt than you.” Holy shit! you are in my head! I thought I was the only one who thought that way. It is so awful when it’s spelled out in black & white like that. You mean it’s a “thing?” I’m a helper? Here I thought I was merely codependent. Shit, I didn’t know there were others! Not sure if this makes me feel better or worse? If it’s any consolation to you Melanie, I would have no idea what I would want, or to ask for, or even if I could receive it either. I just thought I was being strong, self-sufficient and independent. Thanks for this post! Shit, I’m a thing.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Ha, AZD, perhaps I’m just codependent 🙂 I hear you, I’m learning all sorts of things about myself by writing this post and reflecting on it. Thanks so much for reading.

      xoxo
      Melanie

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Ken says:

    Melanie,

    I loved this, I almost peed myself at the wittiness. And I also realized that you have described me to a ‘t’ at the same time. I am working through it, and do my best to simply “speak my authentic truth”. When I feel like I’ve been listening for too long, I sometimes blurt out something like “ok, my turn”. The attempted humour usually causes a shift in the other person. Not only does it open space for me but I think it opens space for the other person too. When some people are given the space, I think they can slip into “overwhelm”. By asking for space myself, I think it makes them pause for a second and realize that “we all have our own shit show”.

    I have found that I have also started to “ask for help” when I write some of my blogs. It may not be face-to-face, but hey, it’s a baby step.

    Ah, the lessons we learn.

    Thanks for the post.

    Cheers, Ken

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Melanie Bates says:

      Thanks, Ken,

      I love that “OK, my turn”. Simple and most assuredly more effective than what I’d want to blurt out, “Hey you selfish prig, I can’t get a word in edgewise.” I jest. But it’s true. If you don’t ask you won’t receive.

      Baby stepping with you,
      Melanie

      Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] my story is that most of my relationships with women have consisted of my giving until depleted and not feeling particularly supported and replenished.  I think you know of what I speak – […]

  2. […] give without being filled in return, I bolt. Gone. No warning. No previous indication. Notta.  I eluded to this phenomenon here. Essentially I told Koelle that I wanted to end this pattern in myself and to reconnect to the […]

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