While I cannot speak for everyone, in my profession as a mental health/marriage and family therapist, I have discovered that the reason most people don’t want–or, to be more accurate, will not– accept help, all comes back to an underlying fear. Fear that, by accepting help, something worse than living in their current situation could prevail. While fears may vary for each individual, below are a list of common underlying fears which revolve around the loss of safety.
Fear of rejection or fear of being vulnerable
The fear that if someone saw us as we truly are, warts and all, they would immediately reject us. We feel more safe being miserable (sad, lonely, addicted, etc.) than we do accepting help, risking vulnerability, and being rejected by another. To avoid this, we reject help, the associated relationships, and ourselves. Through this, we make it impossible for anyone else to reject us. We rationalize that this rejection provides safety; which, in all fairness, it does. However, by securing this safety from being rejected, we give up much more–including relationships, feelings of inclusion and love, the opportunity to overcome a struggle, and vulnerability which is often the birthplace for growth and creativity.
Fear of failure or being a hopeless cause
It sometimes feels safer not to try at all, than it does trying and risking concrete failure. Like going in for a job interview and not getting the job. Or seeking therapy and not being able to overcome your eating disorder, for example. If we do this, we can rationalize to ourselves, “If I got my act together, practiced, accepted help and truly gave it my all, I could be successful.” This way, failure seems like our choice. While this decision is certainly safe, by not accepting help due to fear of failure, you will never have the opportunity to learn, grow, and discover your potential (which is greater than you think!). I will leave you will two quotes from Thomas Edison:
- “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
- “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Fear of not being helpless
Yes, the chaos may be miserable. But many people find themselves comfortable in this chaos, as it is known. Therefore, they fear the unknown. Even if that unknown is no longer feeling suicidal, overcoming an addiction, or removing themselves from a toxic relationship.
While feeling helpless can be a overwhelming, like living in chaos, it is often known and somewhat easy. Being helpless gives us the illusion that we have no responsibility. We do not have expectations of ourselves, others often have low expectations of us, and therefore there is minimal risk in disappointing others.
So what can you do?
As frustrating as it may seem, we cannot force others to accept our help. What we can do is be understanding, consistent, positive, and loving. Let them know that you are there for them if they ever need you. Just like anyone else, these individuals need help and support. Don’t be pushy, but be willing to simply be there.