How do you support someone who isn’t ready to be supported? How do you find that balance between caring enough that you are helpful, while not caring so much that you burn yourself out flogging a dead horse, so to speak. No one can heal without first deciding they’re ready to heal. All the therapy and support and interventions and medication in the world can’t help someone who has decided they’re not up for helping themselves. And I get it. I’ve been there. Wanting someone to “fix” me, make me “better”, give me the answers. But no growth happened in that space. I simply became a victim of my own life and my own decisions… and the funny thing about holding a victim mentality, is that it’s never your fault, never your responsibility, so you just hand the blame from person to person and continue perpetuating your victimhood.
As soon as you own your life, and your decisions; things start changing. It’s a fact that nobody can run your life better than you can. Even if you’re a mess of an adult, you’ll do a better job of it than anyone else could ever do. Every decision you make is the right one for you at the time. Whether it takes you on a magical journey of happiness or shoves you into a messy pile of lessons you didn’t want to learn, it was the right choice. Because YOU made it.
So how do we support those who don’t want to be supported and are happy and comfortable and safe in their victim mentality? I don’t have the answers. I’m writing this to try to work it out myself… at uni we were drilled about not being able to “save everyone”. This was such an important lesson for so many of us. At some point, as therapists, without doing damage to our clients, detach… ok, so how do we detach from our stagnant clients without damaging therapeutic relationships?
I think, in the simplest form, we need to take all our fucks back. When I meet a client, I offer them one of my fucks that I have to give. And see if they accept it. Most do, because they see each new person as the promise of solving all their problems for them without having to do any work themselves. As the relationship progresses, you can offer them a couple more, invest a little more and develop a healthy attachment. Often, though, at some point, the client will start trying to hoard your fucks. Their inner child starts demanding attention, and throwing tantrums, sulking and withdrawing, trying to get comfort and soothing from an external source. While they’re in child, they’re not healing. Instead they’re projecting, putting walls up, resisting all change, resisting all help. I’m not, for one second trying to minimise the real anguish related to depression, anxiety, ptsd etc… this is all connected, but very different.
So we have a stand off… clients hoarding the fucks we’ve given them without using them, or respecting them, and us feeling the draining sensation of being clawed at energetically, in sometimes the most hostile of ways, because they’re hurting and feeling us standing our ground and not giving any more fucks… gently collecting our fucks back from them, it feels like a game, which I suppose it is… in a way. Because life is a game. Standing our ground with all of our fucks tucked safely away. We can be kind without giving up of ourselves. And if our clients aren’t going to appreciate or respect us, we absolutely do not need to tolerate it.
The next chapter usually consists of more tantrums and triggers and resistance. But that’s ok. Stand firm, calm, kind. The chapter after that is usually a humbled and slightly bettered human, asking politely for support, and you may feel inclined to rerelease that original, recharged fuck for them to hold as a reminder that you care.
Today I give no fucks. They’re all mine. If my clients aren’t going to use them, I’ll take them back. There’s a lot of energy in them that I could use for myself right now.
You might need to revisit this question a hundred times throughout the course of someone’s journey through mental illness. Some days they will be more willing than others, some days they will cling tightly to everything that destroyed them because they know nothing else.
If you’re a healer, remember that you can’t save everyone, and not everyone you meet will be ready to be saved in this chapter. But you’re still an important part of their journey, so don’t give up because the universe needs you.