Entries in responsibility (2)



I have recently had a number of my patients say that they know that a person [family member or friend] had good intentions but that what they said or did was not helpful. So, what is wrong with good intentions? Most people are familiar with the proverb [aphorism?] that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This has been explained as it is not enough to intend to do good things but one must actually do them.  Another has to do with possible unintended consequences after one acts on their good intentions. It seems that one can have good intentions for themselves as well as for others. So, it is considered bad if we have good intentions but never act on those intentions. This may be true for good intentions for ourselves but my concern is that good intentions for others may represent thinking we know what is best for others and by acting on these intentions end up taking over and making it harder for others to make decisions for themselves.  

I believe that we can't know what is best for other people because we are not them. People must take responsibility for themselves and make their own decisions. There seems to be no other way to live our lives.  Related to this, I have blogged a number of times about the importance of being supportive and encouraging towards others but to not tell others what to do or take over for them in any way, no mattter how good our intentions are. I believe that we must choose how we will live our lives and that this is easier if we are connected to others who are supportive and encouraging but respect our independence.  

What do you think?



A better question might be if giving advice is ever helpful. Now that might sound radical and yet in my experience with a few thousand people I have never noted that advice was helpful to anyone nor actually accepted by anyone. If it seems to be that people seek advice and then reject it. What is that about? Also, if the above is true then what about my attempts to help people? Am I not at least fairly frequently giving advice and then are my patients also frequently rejecting my advice?  

I have seen repeatedly in my treatment of people that it is critical that they decide what to do and then take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Can advice help that? Since advice is so frequently rejected it seems that advice does not help. There seems to be a wish for advice and for answers to problems and for solutions to problems with others and yet this does not seem to be helpful. When we give advice what message is that sending? It seems to be received as a lack of faith in the person's ability to problem solve for themselves and manage their lives. This may not be an intended message and yet giving advice does not seem to reinforce their being able to problem solve for themselves and to take reponsibility for themselves. Of course, the intention of the advice giver might be to have their advice help the person to start being more responsible for themselves and to take responsibility for their lives. Yet, I have never seen advice giving be helpful for either party as it risks separating the advice giver and receiver. This separation may be related to the stress for the advice giver who feels responsible for the advice receiver [which is the reason that advice was given] and need that the receiver has to be responsible for themselves. This appears to be a basic need and the receiver will likely feel that the advice giver does not have faith in the receiver's ability to manage for themselves. 

So what is the alternative? It is to encourage and support the person you are tempted to give advice to. What is encouragement and support? It requires listening without our own reactions and thus allowing ourselves to see the strength in the other and then share this with them. Listening by itself is supportive as we are with others and therefore are supporting them when we are listening. The support is emotional support and often does not require any words. This encouragement and support is what I try to do with my patients as I listen and have an opportunity to reflect back what I have heard and to encourage them to trust themselves and see what happens.

Does any of this make any sense?