On Helping

For neither Freud nor Jung was helping people their primary interest.  One saw analysis as a miniature laboratory, the other as an opportunity to observe the “approach of the numinous”.

Something to be said for indirection – it’s hard enough to know what we ourselves need, much less others who we may see for no more than a session or two (if we’re a therapist) or even for friends. Lacan often spoke of the impossibility of ever truly understanding ourselves or others, which includes the possibility of truly knowing what we or the other really wants or needs.

So long as our interest in the helping profession or act involves genuine curiosity for the other and consistently focused attention, along with the integration of whatever our primary interest is, then not only will this be acceptable, but may supercede the efforts of those who (at least in their own minds) are helping purely for the sake of the other. So Freud based his efforts at helping on absolute honesty and on helping clients building a connection to reality, and Jung focused on the numinous – on dreams, religion, and inner experience.

If all we focus on is “helping” people it will make the task a million times more difficult and tedious, and likely with minimal benefit. In therapy one is faced with innumerable decisions that do not have clear “right” answers in the objective sense. Because the right answer depends not only on the client, but also on ourselves. Our interest in what we’re doing will communicate itself to the client, and so that must serve as a substantial guide, for that by itself has healing power. The self-knowledge to know and go with where you want to go and what you believe will help your client and is almost always what is most necessary.

The most meaningful subjects are best approached indirectly.  Perhaps, in that same vein, those whose role it is to assist others in these most meaningful areas must likewise do so indirectly. For once, having a ulterior motive is not a bad thing, so long as it’s complimented by a desire to help the other in the process – and there is a degree of transparency.

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