Something that's been up for me recently is the notion of asking for help. I'm in the midst of an inquiry around it. Sometimes I struggle to ask for help, and I mostly don't want people to know. I don't want you to know that I need help, and I don't want you to know that I don't want to ask for it. There's some shame simply in acknowledging that I need help. I wonder about that.
Of course, it's not universal. Could you pass the salt is a request for help. But some things are personal, and by acknowledging I need help it might point to some inadequacy in me that I'd rather keep covered up. This is shadow behavior 101, and most of us have experienced it in some way. Keeping hidden the thing in me that needs attention the most. For example:
Since I was a young man, I've dabbled with cannabis use. I first tried it in junior high around the age of 13. I still remember how incredible it was to experience it for the first time. The joy and fun that came so easily. It felt like I'd been given a special gift since I was depressed and lonely in those days. In my late teens and early 20's it went from occasional use to heavy use, even daily at times. It had gone from a gift of occasional relief to something I felt I needed. I was backed up emotionally and needed something to relieve me from the emptiness of a life without feeling. Or another way to say it, the heart-splitting pain of ongoing emotional repression.
I needed help but couldn't ask for it. Not only to able to feel my feelings, but also to start to undo a habit that had become deeply ingrained and had gone from helpful to a hindrance. Not that there's anything wrong with using cannabis. But my habitual use left me with a sense of shame for not being able to manage things better without it.
And here is evident again the potential damage caused by not asking for help. I needed help with feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead of asking for help, I developed a habit of using cannabis as a way to relieve the symptoms. Then years later when I was finally ready to ask for help with the depression, I had a new problem of habitual cannabis use that was actually worsening the depression by keeping me shut in and unexpressed. And although I was getting help with the former, I was still afraid to ask for help with changing the habit.
The truth of it is that we all need help. We need each other. This world is interdependent and not one of us is immune from that. No matter how rich, clever, or cunning a person is, we still need help sometimes. Something about that sets me at ease, and I let go just a little. To acknowledge that I need you is to leave a small sense of self and touch into the immense resource of community.
The ocean awaits me
While I flow in my little stream,
But what if I fall while along the way?
Let us be like the water
Flowing towards a fall,
Many will come to witness
The beauty of our letting go
The thing that helps me the most to get over the fear of asking for help is this: I love helping others. I love to be a source of support for my friends and loved ones. I find my sense of self-worth and value by what I can give to others. I imagine many of us are like that. So giving others an opportunity to help me could be just as rich for them as it is for me. And the process will be mutually supportive.