Do you want to know how to help someone who doesn’t want help? What are some reasons someone might not want to ask for help?
For various reasons, people who are struggling might not ask for help. Understanding the reasons, and reading our tips for how to help someone who doesn’t want help, might empower them to make that all-important step to reach out.
Find out how to help someone who doesn’t want help below.
Why People Refuse to Ask for Help
To understand how to help someone who doesn’t want help, it’s important to first understand why they don’t want help in the first place. This is different for everyone, but here are two possible reasons:
1) They Want to Fix It Themselves
In their quest to be needless saints that must “fix” everything themselves, someone who doesn’t want help is often a poor receiver. When someone tries to attend to their needs—emotional, sexual, work-related, or otherwise—they challenge his negative beliefs about his self-worth and cause inner tension.
To avoid these negative feelings, they will unconsciously avoid situations where their needs are likely to be met. For example, they’ll seek out needy people, communicate in vague ways, and self-sabotage. And because they rely on covert contracts (assuming no one wants to meet their needs) they rarely ask for help.
Or, they might not want to be a burden. Although they might use it in an unproductive way, “low maintenance” can be used as a positive descriptor—a haircut that doesn’t require much upkeep, for example. It’s when we apply this term to human behavior and our relationships that the concept becomes problematic.
According to marriage and family therapist Sarah Epstein, the desire to be seen as “low maintenance” often comes from a place of fear. We might fear being viewed as “needy” or fear abandonment if our needs become “too much” for others. She explains that this mindset often develops in childhood when parents ignore, downplay, or overreact to a child’s needs—emotional or otherwise. Epstein emphasizes that because being a selfless caretaker and malleable people-pleaser becomes the goal of the “low maintenance” person, the desire to appear needless—much like the victim mindset—is tied to a rejection of the self.
2) They’re Stuck in a Victim Mentality
Psychoanalyst Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries defines the victim mentality as a belief that all control over your life rests in the hands of external forces. This can lead to angry outbursts and defensiveness. Essentially, their feelings of powerlessness turn into a rage that gets taken out on the innocent people around them.
De Vries adds a final rescuer stage, in which the “victim” decides to “rescue” others in an attempt to fix everyone’s problems except their own. When someone tries to help the “victim” in return, they invent reasons to resist this assistance so as to unconsciously affirm their victim status and elicit more attention.
De Vries believes the best way to break this cycle is to self-reflect and develop a healthy self-image.
Helping Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help
We’ve discussed earlier in this article how the victim mentality can cause this type of resistance to support—so, what do you do when you want to help someone who doesn’t want help? Experts have some advice:
- Listen to them: According to psychiatrist Mark Goulston, instead of offering advice outright, stop and listen to the person who needs help. You might think you know what’s best for the other person, but providing an attentive and empathetic ear will ensure you understand their needs and where they’re coming from. Goulston says the more a person opens up to you, the less isolated or misunderstood they will feel, which should encourage them to seek out your advice, help, or understanding ear in the future. This is the best way you can help someone who doesn’t want help.
- Do your research: ReachOut, a mental health resource hub, encourages you to explore options that could help the person you’re concerned about. This doesn’t mean bombarding the other person with information and resources but arming yourself with useful knowledge so you’re prepared if they do ask for your help.
- Be an example: Another great way you can help someone who doesn’t want help is to be an example to them. Psychologist Thomas G. Plante agrees that giving unsolicited advice rarely works. Instead, he suggests leading by example. As observational learners, we’re more likely to follow the actions of others than we are to follow their advice. Model healthy habits, including asking for help when you need it.
- Get help yourself: Mental Health America—a resource network—notes that trying to help someone who doesn’t want help can be a draining and frustrating process. They encourage you to seek out your own help during this time. Not only will you be in a better mindset to support others, but you’ll also gain insight into how to approach your interactions with those who need help.
- Don’t force them to act: At the end of the day, you can’t make someone do something or be someone they’re not. Addictions writer Katherine Schreiber explains that trying to force someone to do what you think they should do only leads to more stress and negative emotions for the other person, including shame, guilt, and feelings of dependency. (This will only work to perpetuate the victim cycle compelling them to avoid help.)
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