NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When Someone You Love Rejects Your Help

One of the hardest things to endure is to experience someone you love, who is suffering, turn down your help.  You know that you all you want to do is help, but your loved one, for whatever reason, rejects your offer.  This can create a lot of conflicting feelings in you, including sadness, confusion, helplessness, frustration and anger.  It's very hard to watch your loved one in pain and not be able to do anything about it.  

Assuming that your loved one is an adult who is not seriously mentally or physically ill, the best thing you can do under ordinary circumstances is to back off and realize that your loved one isn't necessarily rejecting you personally.

For whatever reason, he doesn't want your help, and nagging and pleading with him isn't going to help. Assuming that he is an adult, the problem isn't an emergency, and he's not in danger of harming himself or anyone else, you can assure your loved that if and when he wants your help, you're ready to help him. Then, you really need to step back and take care of yourself in whatever positive ways you can to deal with this difficult situation.

When Someone You Love Rejects Your Help, You Might Have to Take a Step Back

The following scenario, which is a composite of many different cases with all identifying information changed, illustrates how to deal with a situation when someone you love rejects your help:

When Karen came to see me, she was very worried about her 28 year old son, Michael, who had just lost his job through no fault of his own.  His company laid off half the workforce due to a financial downturn, and Michael was among the employees let go.

Karen was aware that Michael had large student loan debts and he had little in the way of savings.  When he told her about the lay off, she offered to give him money so he could get by until he found another job.  She also urged him to move back home so he wouldn't have to pay rent.  But Michael rejected her help, telling her that he could take care of himself.

Over the next few months, Karen watched as Michael struggled to find another job.  With each new rejection, Michael seemed more and more disappointed.  When she renewed her offer to help him, Michael lost his temper with her and lashed out, accusing her of not having any faith in him.  Karen was hurt and confused by Michael's response.

Karen tried to explain that she only wanted to help him, but he told her to back off.  She had never seen Michael like this before, and she was worried.  When she began having problems with insomnia, her husband, who was respecting Michael's wishes, recommended that she seek help, and this is when she called me.

We worked on helping Karen to contain her difficult emotions, to focus on herself, and to engage in better self care with regard to her eating and sleep habits.  She also began spending more time engaging in activities that she enjoyed.  She had to learn to accept that Michael was an adult who was responsible for himself, and if he didn't want her help, she had to accept it.  She also had to learn not to personalize his rejection of her help, and recognize that loved ones often turn down help.  She also learned to stop nagging him with her offers, which was having a negative impact on their relationship.  Michael interpreted these offers to mean that she had no confidence in him, even though this isn't what she meant.

Several more months went by, with Michael working whatever part time jobs he could find, until he finally found a job that was similar in responsibilities and salary to his prior job.  When Michael told Karen that he found a great new job, Karen heard the happiness and pride in his voice.   At that point, she understood why it was so important for him to reject her help so he could feel that he could take care of himself on his own.

If Your Loved One is a Harm to Himself or to Others, You'll Need to Take Action
Fortunately, this particular scenario has a happy ending, but not all situations end this happily.  As I mentioned before, if you feel that a loved one is in serious danger of hurting himself or someone else (either suicidal or homicidal or there is an imminent threat of danger), you need to take action by contacting local mental health professionals or, under the most serious and immediate circumstances, calling 911.

Under Ordinary Circumstances, If Your Loved One Rejects Your Help, Be Reassuring But Not Interfering
Under the more usual circumstances that we normally experience with loved ones, if they don't want our help, we often have to step back and back off.

I know this can be very hard to do, but continuing to insist on helping will only make your loved one dig in his or her heels even more.  Assure your loved one of your love and that, if he changes his mind, you're ready to help.  Until then, be as tactful and gracious as you can, and recognize that we can't spare our loved ones the hurt and pain that are a normal part of life.

Hopefully, your loved one will resolve the problem and resume his or her usual life, and your relationship will remain strong.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Also, see my article:  Learning to Let Go and Stop Interfering in Your Adult Child's Relationship

photo credit: drewleavy via photopin cc