I have always been fascinated by the 7 stages of grief (7-S for this post). Yes, that sounds very morbid so let me try again… I always try to relate the 7 stages of grief to every person’s struggle in life. When someone is telling me their story, for example, they’ve just written an exam and it went badly, I try to understand which stage of the 7-S process they are in. Are they still in shock because they just wrote it? Is it denial that they even wrote an exam? Or is it anger because the lecturers made the questions unanswerable? (Bargaining is here but it only fits if I am the exam marker). Or maybe it is guilt because they know they should have studied more? Or are they depressed because they know the outcome already? Or finally are they at acceptance that they failed before they even received their marks?
The point that I am trying to make is that we can relate these stages to many scenarios; not just grief or addictions. These two are probably the toughest scenarios although one cannot truly compare two individual’s struggles with one another. I’ve watched how individuals move from denial to anger and then back to denial; maybe skipping to depression and then back to denial. But never ever quite getting to acceptance.
Tied into understanding the different stages in the process is the struggle of helping people. With many personality tests taken I discovered that I am an enabler who tries to avoid conflict. The downside of this is that when there is conflict I am generally the coldest person in the room who says everything that should not be said in anger (or maybe, ever). If I can make people’s lives easier (And therefore my own – see, it’s not all altruistic is it?) I would. This speaks to many relationships I have where I am remembered when people are going through their worst periods and then never heard from again for months or years. Do not worry though, I went through the 7-S process for this as well a while ago and have come to accept that it is part of who I am and my own fault for letting this happen.
So back to helping people – the problem I struggle with is when a person is in a repeated cycle of denial and anger and denial again. And no amount of offered help seems to work. My response to this (after I’ve been through enough conflicts) is tough love or as the recipients of this approach would most likely call it being an unemotional cow (I would use stronger language to get the point across but you never know who reads these posts).
Through my own observations, I find that people can get trapped in one particular stage and through selfishness; lack of understanding or pure inability or strength to move forward this stage becomes a habit. The problem with being trapped in a stage is that it becomes destructive and before you know it all your relationships change for the worst. If you are trapped in the stage of anger you can imagine the destruction this causes – you are constantly angry and since you’re not yet at acceptance it is everyone else’s fault. If you are trapped in the stage of depression you will be so negative it will be hard for people to connect and eventually they will stop trying and once again you will not accept that it is from your own actions.
So what do you do if you have already tried everything to help this person? Nothing. It is the hardest stage – acceptance, but as you try to help the person you, yourself, end up going through these stages and once you accept that the person needs to want to help themselves there is nothing you can do. You feel dis-empowered and empowered all at the same time. And you may come across as aloof and unemotional. The important point to remember is that you’ve walked through the stages and sometimes you need to let the person walk their own journey and take their own time, as frustrating and cruel as it may seem.