Whenever I have the good fortune to participate in training, I try to figure out whether the skills I’m learning can be more broadly applied.
In first aid, for example, there’s the principle of protecting your own safety. Don’t put yourself at risk. If you allow yourself to get injured, you can’t help anyone else and you’re a casualty, too.
For first aid, this sounds sensible. Do you think the “don’t risk yourself” principle has any application outside of first aid? Let’s say you feel hurt in some way—perhaps you are depressed, anxious, angry, or whatever. Does “don’t risk yourself” apply?
Andrea’s daughter is in a tough spot. She’s lost her job, partly because of her own behaviour, and has suggested to mom that it would be great to move back home!
Andrea isn’t doing so well herself. She’s concerned about her age, her health, and her future. She finds it hard to get up and go to work every day. In short, she is exhibiting behaviours often associated with “depressing.”
How important is it for Andrea to protect her own well-being before helping her daughter?
There are two ways to look at this, aren’t there? I’ll present both; you decide!
On the one hand, helping can sometimes help us out of our own misery. An invitation to her daughter could increase Andrea’s feelings of love and connection, it could help put her own concerns in perspective, and she may even get a boost in self-esteem as she provides valuable assistance.
So, Andrea could choose to perceive the situation as an opportunity to connect with her daughter. If so, it will be more satisfying for both if she also clearly defines her expectations and chooses not to resent the inevitable inconveniences.
On the other hand, helping can sometimes add to our misery. If Andrea perceives that having her daughter live with her would compound her current unhappiness, then does anyone truly benefit?
If Andrea gives in because of coercion or guilt, will she risk her own well-being? If she resents the arrangement, love and connection could decrease rather than increase. In that case, it may be better for both if she responds, “Thank you for thinking you would like to live with me, but I can’t agree.”
If you’re feeling down, there can be real benefits to lending a helping hand. Helping can be a win-win. However, allowing yourself to be coerced, used, or guilted could result in lose-lose over the long run.
An objection to “don’t risk yourself” could be that it sounds selfish. And of the “dirty words” that most of us don’t want associated with us, odds are that the term “selfish” is right up there.
Andrea knows her history with her daughter. If she invites her to move in, will the change help Andrea lift herself out of her depressing behaviours? Or does it risk making them worse?
Based on how that relationship has been working, Andrea can decide whether she needs to protect herself or reach out and help.
What do you think? Is “don’t risk yourself” a principle that you embrace?