In the previous blog entry, I listed advantages of reaching out to others about our private troubles, despite our fears of exposure and shame. Suppose you know intellectually that reaching out is best for you, but you just can’t muster the willpower to do so. You feel scared of being negative judged or humiliated. As a matter of fact, you feel humiliated just having the problem or thinking you can’t handle it alone.
This is where clearing your negative emotions of resistance or even shame may come into play. We describe the steps in Chapter 3 of Reframing Change: feel the feeling, intensify it, and release it.
Feel the shame and embarrassment that you even have this problem. Intensify it by journaling about how badly you feel until new insights emerge. Keep writing until you feel better.
Feel the resistance to making that phone call to someone who can help. Intensify it. Put the resistance in an imaginary balloon and watch it float away. Check to see if there is any resistance left. If so, put that in the imaginary balloon and let it float away. Keep going until you feel better.
The point is this: shift your focus from the original problem that is worrying you to your feelings of resistance and shame. It’s these feelings that keep you stuck and unable to reach out to others or think clearly about your problems. Clear out those feelings and you will then have the wherewithal to find someone who can actually help you look at the original problem in a new way. I’ll provide you with more resources on how to clear negative feelings in future blogs.
Once you make the decision to reach out, the next step is to decide who to ask for help. The answer is it takes a village. Each person in the village has a unique perspective to offer.
- You could start with a friend or family member whom you trust. Most people have at least one person who loves them and cares about them enough to listen. Be careful, though, because many of our friends and family members may offer well-meaning advice, but not necessarily good advice. It may be best to check out their advice with an expert, wise mentor, or someone whom you know has successfully weathered similar problems as your own.
- How do you find the right expert or mentor? Ask others. Once you find the person, send an e-mail or pick up the phone and ask the person for a half hour of their time. Most people will agree. Then make an outline of what you want to say — this is almost the same as applying for a job — and bring two copies of it to your meeting with the person. Once you’re there, describe your situation as quickly as you can, then be prepared to mostly just listen. If you find yourself arguing with the person, then excuse yourself and leave.
- If you prefer to have support from others who have experienced the same dilemma, go to the website of the American Self-Help Group Clearinghouse. Look for a self-help group near you for people who are experiencing a similar issue.
- If it’s a workplace related dilemma, consider a leadership coach. We offer coaching through Leading Consciously. Or find out if your organization would support an employee affinity group to address the issue.
If you suspect it’s a mental health issue, try to find a competent therapist. If you are fortunate enough to work in an organization that offers an employee assistance program, that could be a good place to start. Or, you could try the website of the National Institute for Mental health. They provide a description of signs, symptoms, and treatments for various mental health problems.
Finding the right friend, expert, coach, or therapist or coach is a daunting proposition. Sometimes talk with one person, have a dismal experience, and then drop the whole thing instead of trying to find someone else. People don’t give up all medical care if they have a bad experience with a doctor, nor do they decide to give up driving cars if a car salesperson treats them shoddily. So, the trick is to remind yourself that it takes a village and try someone else or someplace else until you get the help you are seeking.
As I explained in Part 1, years ago, I reached out to Linda Calvert when I had a horrendous work problem that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t solve. Linda introduced me to Jean Ramsey, my coauthor of Reframing Change, and the two of them walked me through that and other issues. They were both highly strength-focused and respectful of my person and my situation. I was fortunate to have access to their wisdom and expertise.
With the right person or persons, sharing could open up doors — and a more powerful life for you. It did for me.
Meanwhile, what keeps you from seeking help from others? What makes it worth it for you to try?
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