“I had the worst week imaginable. Like, everything imploded: car towed, my paycheck bounced, garbage disposal erupted, my dog went missing, is still missing, and I got flaked on my second date with Tinder guy. I didn’t even want to see you today, Brady, but I rallied to get out of bed after I called my dad this morning. He is really there for me when I need him. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
When shit hits the fan, as if fans are somehow metaphysically engineered for shit, we do the best we can. We call dad. We call mom. We reach for our phones to text roommates. We yell for our partners. We shout for help with a childlike powerlessness. We can also reach for a bottle, whatever’s in the medicine cabinet, behind the refrigerator door, that habitual thing that we still call recreational, the remote control, or even the nearest warm body. We cope.
We cope the best way that we can at any given moment.
There is, in coping, a relational mechanism at work if we so choose to cope by asking for help. The relational piece, which is the focus of this blog entry, is in that moment of asking for help, that we might not consciously acknowledge.
Asking for help, in perhaps a moment of crisis, or even in less turbulent times, is done because we know someone is close and can help, as asking for help also makes someone close.
Like gravity, the more we pull for others, the closer they get; concurrently, it becomes easier to pull on those that are close.
To slow down this circular mechanism to see its movements, it is important to distinguish that the people that we choose to ask for help are often times those that we have asked for help in the past. Distinctively, we know that they are there, in large part, because we have asked them to be there for us. Conversely, without reaching out for help, it is very difficult to feel that others are there for you, in large part, because we have not asked for others to be there for us.
Over time, and over small and large moments of reaching out to others and not reaching out to others, we construct our feelings of closeness. Or to further the gravitational metaphor; we assemble our constellations from the familiar orbits of our daily living.
Taking a sidestep from the metaphor, perhaps dreamed by Brian Swimme, and back into the prompt, I’m not saying that reaching out to your dad, or anyone in particular is wrong or bad or somehow emblematic of weakness, an unhealthy relationship, or some psychological deficit. What I am saying is that the act of reaching out for help to someone specific is also a relational act of opening up to that specific person and an expression of a desire to get close to them, above others.
On a therapeutic level, which is to say an incredibly personal level, I believe it is important to examine how we ask for help, or do not ask for help, and to whom do we ask for help, or do not ask at all.
The importance of that examination addresses, at least from one angle, feelings of closeness, connection, community, and in their absence, distance, isolation, and loneliness. And yes, I’m guilty of going the circuitous route as a shrink and asking about how and which persons are asked for help, to critically examine the felt sense of disconnection and loneliness.
Beyond the ideas of closeness and the pragmatic examination of how we can get close to others, and to the more general relationship advice, I would say: it’s hard to reach out to a person, any person, because we might be rejected. Our requests can go unanswered. Our messages can go unreturned. Our reaching out can be left empty. There is, however, the possibility that in reaching out for help, there is something to hold onto. And in that, I would say you do risk loneliness in having your requests go unanswered; you guarantee it in not asking for help at all.
Whoever you reach out to, I am glad that they are there for you.