THE BLOG

2012 Water Dragon Year: Helping or Interfering?

01/12/2012 06:18 pm ET | Updated Mar 13, 2012

Well, here it comes...The Chinese Year of the Water Dragon. When you look up the symbolism of the water dragon it is described as a powerful creature. But it loses power if it jumps into a situation before carefully observing or researching the circumstances. This year I've heard from a lot of people, especially women, who work as healers or in the home as mothers about feeling drained because they've helped too many people.

When counselors work with people who grew up in homes where parents suffered from addictions such as alcohol or drug dependency, those counselors often look for a tendency in the adults (who grew up in those households) to help make everyone feel better. It is a well-established survival skill of children, to try to make their moody, erratic parents calm so that they, the children, can survive.

If we grow up in a household with addictions, we can tend to look outside ourselves to feel OK. We can turn to addictions such as drugs, food and/or alcohol. Or we can become addicted to helping other people. The problem is that if you are helping others, without their request, it could be a subtle form of trying to control. Perhaps you are trying to make yourself feel better or safe if you can have a perception that they are "OK."

There's the old saying, "God helps them that help themselves." In 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon, one of the key parts of the program is when a person does step one, an admission that they are powerless over alcohol, people and certain circumstances. There is also a humbling surrender that happens when an individual asks for help. There is an admission by that individual that they are not all-powerful in many situations.

Years ago I read a quote from a woman who wrote that when we interrupt someone else's journey, we take their karma on for ourselves. Whether or not you believe in the concept of karma, I think her notion gives one pause. I've known many, many people in recovery from addiction. Many only were able to get sober only after family members and friends allowed them to hit their bottom.

I myself had that experience 20 something years ago. Someone offered to get me somewhere where I could get help. But I had to ask and I had to be willing.

That leads me to the topic of parents and their desire to control their kids' experiences and lives. There seems to be a chronic epidemic of interference. I recently went to a lecture by author Dan Kindlon, Ph.D. He's the author of Raising Cain and many other best-selling books about childrearing. He spoke about the growing trend of parents intervening in their children's academic and personal lives. Yet, when he questioned the kids' parents he was observing about their own achievements at the same age as their children, he consistently found that the parents had not been super-achievers themselves. Yet, here they were pushing their kids relentlessly.

Kindlon's observation was that if kids had positive social connections (friendships) in their peer group, they were going to be ok, no matter what their academic or sport performance levels were.

This year, I have the opportunity to work with some moms who are intuitive and trying to balance empowering their kids without controlling them. I too, am working on that concept.

It seems the Chinese Calendar Year of 2012, the Water Dragon and what it symbolizes, might be the perfect time to reflect on loosening our grip on other people's lives. After all, most of us love to have our own personal freedom, perhaps it is time to wrap that up as a gift and hand it to someone in our lives that we love. Perhaps a New Year's resolution could be to model ourselves after the water dragon. Maybe when we help and feel drained it's because we aren't really helping. Perhaps this person really does need to walk through an experience, that isn't supposed to be cut short or "fixed". The real question is what's are motivation? Are we trying to make ourselves feel better or comfortable? Have they asked for our help? The water dragon doesn't jump in, it observes. Here's to a whole new year.

For more by Lorraine Roe, click here.

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