The Courage To Ask For Help
Kirsten and Lyell were smiling as they walked into our counseling room for their first appointment. They actually seemed happy. When we asked them why they made the appointment, they said, “We’re asking for your help to keep the love strong in our relationship. We figure it’s better to ask for help while things are going well, than to wail until there’s a crisis.”
Joyce and I were momentarily stunned. It had been so long since a couple came to us without a serious problem — many years actually. The session went wonderfully. We were able to give Kirsten and Lyell specific tools and practices to bring out even more love in their relationship. It was so refreshing to not have to work in crisis mode, to have the luxury of building on the already present love and harmony.
We often wish more individuals and couples would understand the benefits they could receive from coming to a workshop or scheduling a counseling session before a crisis happens. And trust us on this one: crises are inevitable. It’s part of living in the world. Most people are in a certain amount of denial about this, almost pretending that a serious problem could never happen to them. But they can – and they will.
We urge people to realize that major crises in both life and relationships can be prepared for by the coaching and training that happens in a healing environment. We have friends who seem to take ultimate care of their bodies, eating a high percentage of live organically-grown foods, exercising every day, and seeking the preventative help of various types of body-workers. They understand the value of prevention of physical problems. But when it comes to their relationships (including the most important relationship – the inner relationship with self), there appears to be a lapse in this consciousness. They wouldn’t think of asking for help unless they had a serious problem.
Unfortunately, asking for psychological help still carries a negative stigma for many people. It’s alright to need help physically, but not emotionally or psychologically.
Joyce and I are committed to changing this still-prevalent attitude or belief. We continually inform people that needing help is natural, and asking for psychological help, rather than being a sign of weakness, is really one of the most courageous things we can do. Only the strong can admit needing help.
In our workshops, we always make room for individuals or couples to ask for support, to actually practice this almost lost art-form. In one workshop, Roger, a successful businessman in his mid fifties, when instructed to ask his sub-group of three other people for support, looked at them and said, “I’m really fine. I don’t need support for anything.” I just happened to be with this group. I told Roger, “Just forget for a moment that you are only a fully-grown man. Try to imagine that there’s also a little boy inside you who is scared and needs love.”
Tears suddenly came into Roger’s eyes. It surprised even him. With our help and encouragement, he asked for support with his fears about failure and his grief over having to grow up too quickly. Suddenly he looked sheepish and said, “You all must think I’m a wimp.” One after another of us spoke our heart-felt appreciations for his vulnerability, his courage, and his victory of becoming a true man in our eyes.
Opportunities to ask for help may come at the most surprising moments. This past February at our annual Hawaii retreat, I was sharing with the group the last time I was with my dad, about a month before he died in 1997. I intended to simply share a touching memory of our last interaction. I started to cry and, before long, Joyce and some of the group members were holding me as I asked for help with my grief. It was an incredibly sweet and yet totally unplanned moment of healing for me.
So please remember the courage and healing available just by asking for help. And remember to do this before it becomes urgent. You’ll be very glad you did.