the unhelpful helper


Credit goes to Jonas Lundström

In these last days as I tried to cope with the breakup from my partner I ran into the issue I am always running into when I am in need. Since this is a very painful and at times downright life threatening issue for me I have analysed this thoroughly and want to share my ideas about it with all of you.

My struggles start with the fact that like many long term depressed, neglected and/or autistic people I have no reliable social network to fall back on. You know your best friend you can call in the middle of the night to share your horrifying pain with? I never had that. I dealt with all these night on my own. Always. I do have of course people I’m talking to that may or may not qualify as friends (my concept of friendship is rather… vague).

In times like these I always learn who is a good person to be around and who isn’t. Not that I feel very eager to learn such things when I am preoccupied with the idea that I am in all likelihood never going to see my six furbabies again but such is life. As you may have guessed from the title of this post I am calling the people who do not qualify as good friends are the unhelpful helpers. Let’s see how they go about my issues and why this is far from productive.

Why do unhelpful helpers want to help?

Unhelpful helpers recognise you are in a dire situation and in need of support. Which in itself is the absence of an abusive technique called gaslighting. So they have some version of empathy atuning them to the need of others. Good. Now there are two reasons why we could want to lessen someone elses pain. One is that we do not like to see other people we care about in pain and the other one is that WE do not like to see other people we care about in pain.

The former stems from a care for the other individual and hopefully understanding that not all pains can be done away with. Interestingly many pets know this well. They just come to you and offer their quiet presence because really there is nothing else to do but to remind our friends about someone being there for them. The latter being about the helpers own discomfort and the immature idea that all problems can be solved with some disney magic.

How do unhelpful helpers “help”?

It’s acually pretty simple: there is no disney magic. No griefing mother will start to be all rainbows and unicorns and least of all because SOMEONE ELSE feels uncomfortable with her pain. The same in many variation goes for all other sorts of pains. Yes it makes us sad seeing other people in pain and yes we do not like being sad. The unhelpful helper then throws their own discomfort back at the person they want to “help”.

Usually in the way of some patented bullshit. Like telling your atheistic friend that if they just pray god will take care of it. God in a way takes the place of the good helper here. There individual that listens and acknowledges the pain without drumming up some idiocy about what can be done to make it all magically go away so he doesn’t have to deal with it any longer. Personally I find it rather sad to need to turn to some invisible and arguably potentially not existent friend for the help that SHOULD be offered by the actual people claiming to act in his name.

The bullshit has many sizes and forms, snake oils have many varietys, the bottom line is always if you just do X all will be good. Most importantly all will be so good, that I don’t have to deal with it anymore. The helper have done their part, they solved all your problems by sprinkling their magic fairy dust on it.

Why is unhelpful help so toxic?

The problems starts as soon as you point out that your unhelpful helpers magic fairy dust is nothing but powderised bullshit. The answer is always that you are not trying hard enough. Fairy dust is nothing short of the magical all problem solver. Nothing is wrong with their suggestions and they aren’t the least bit twisted for expecting you to pretend you are not in pain at all because it makes them uncomfortable.

It doesn’t matter that right now you do not want or need a discussion about why their cherished suggestion is bullshit. They expect to be treated as a deity in their own right for being so brilliant to have thought about this all solving suggestion. This gets increasingly erratic the longer your issues have been going on and the more severe they are. Obviously living with issues for years does not mean that you have tried anything at all before you talked to them and they instantly became the biggest authority on the subject as soon as you told them what kind of issues you have. Much bigger than you yourself could ever hope to be.

There the toxicity start in earnest. As the unhelpful helper is OBVIOUSLY only such a well intentioned, knowledgeable and above all faultless being someone else needs to take the blame for you still daring to make the unhelpful helper uncomfortable. Because this is all about their comfort. Well who to blame when there are only two people talking? The person who looked for help of course! Your problems are now caused by you. If you don’t get better it’s all your fault and you deserve it.

Like with the many names and flavours of snake oil there are many names and flavours for you not being good enough. You are being lazy, weak, argumentative, stubborn, stuck up, you are not doing it the right way, they flat out won’t believe that you did try their suggestions already and they didn’t help… You have oh so many faults and there is obviously nothing that can excuse your stupid insistency on not being better. Least of all being in actual pain and bullshit not helping your situation any day of any given year.

Somehow you looking for comfort has turned into you needing to defend yourself for being in need the first place. Instead of finding a small but not insignificant solace in the comfort in the presence of another living being you now are saddled with the discomfort of another person. Somehow this takes first priority over the pain that first caused this discomfort. You are now responsible for the discomfort of them by daring to not bow to their wishes and get magically sorrow free through their fairy dust.

In my opinion there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we interact with each other as long as unhelpful helpers are praised for advocating snake oil unpunished. Especially if they are in positions where they should help people for a living. For a long time I was gullible enough to drink their kool aid. That’s another layer of abuse right on top of the one I was initially seeking help for. And this layer has been liberally added by teachers, therapists, priests, more distant relatives and pretty much most other authority figures I came in contact with.

It was always me who was not enough and it was always about someone elses discomfort. I wish I could at least admonish them for their complete destruction of my trust in people being remotely helpful but I know that somehow unlike me they have people to run to in the middle of the night who will listen to the horrific pain they have just been put through. They consider themselves having the moral high ground because they are not alone. Unlike the obnoxious idiot they only wanted to HELP…


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