Depending on others for insights into concerns that trouble you can be essential,  frustrating, or impossible.

Case 1: I asked three friends for help in determining an approach to speaking with a relative about a severe health problem that was being ignored.  Implicit in my request was that

  • I cared deeply about this person
  • I was definitely going to speak with her.
Before I could finish telling my story, the three friends were interrupting with their opinions about the health problem and how nothing I could say or do would help.  Several times I said I was looking for help on the approach to talking with this person not on the problem itself, but they could not hear that.  They were too busy reinforcing their opinions that I should do nothing.  I gave up and my mind slunk away.  (Impossible).

Case 2:
Married to  a seriously brilliant businessman, I would sometimes try to tell him about concerns that I had about various issues, often about the children.  He tried to help by giving advice on how to fix the problems, but never seemed to be able to just listen and help me to work out feelings and frustrations or to discuss interim approaches that would give me the confidence to move forward in my own way to an achievable goal.  (Frustrating).

Case 3: Years ago I accepted school-age foster children into my home, sometimes one child at a time and on one occasion a brother and sister.  As neighborhood mothers often do when getting together, we discussed our children and helped each other work out ways to deal with issues that came up.  While this was fine when I talked about my own biological children, it completely fell apart when I tried to get insights about my foster kids.  Now, I have to tell you that any children that have been removed from their homes and their parents will have emotional issues to work out.  This becomes compounded if there has been abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior in the home or constant lying and betrayal.  These kids come with serious behavioral problems, and it becomes very difficult to understand them and to help them.  To seek insights from parents who have never dealt with disturbed children is futile.  They simply cannot relate.  (Impossible).

Eventually I discovered a family who was in the process of adopting a foster daughter who also had behavioral problems, and it was like coming up for air.  For both of us mothers, it was a genuinely relief to talk with someone who knew what the other was going through even though the personalities, ages, and behaviors of the children were very different.  We understood each other.  (Essential).

I could go on with the many times throughout my life when I’ve needed insights that I couldn’t generate on my own, but I think I have finally learned that to seek help from another person needs to be done very carefully.  One doesn’t get such help on one’s own terms at one’s own convenience as I tried to do with my three friends.  It’s better to think ahead and plan who might have a similar background and knowledge and try to seek help there.  Such an approach might not always give what is needed, but generally one gets at least a partial insight that may point a way to proceed.

Best of all is when two friends spontaneously ‘connect’ in their thinking and mutually wanted insights go flowing back and forth between them.  What a joy indeed!

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