Have you ever gone through a period of indecision or uncertainty in your life where some person—perhaps a close friend, a family member, or even a teacher or mentor—has given you strong support, offered suggestions, and tried to help you in every way?
And then after some time, have you begun to feel uneasy about this person, and perhaps wanted to step back a bit from their interest in helping you in your situation, despite their seemingly good intentions? Has their help gradually started to feel somewhat oppressive? But then have you stopped and thought, no, this person is really helping me, and I don’t want to be ungrateful?
Then, after a while, you start to feel certain that something just isn’t right. You can’t explain it, but somewhere deep inside you know that that you’ve been allowing yourself to be unduly influenced, and instead of feeling strengthened by this person’s support, you feel weakened by it.
This kind of thing is much more common that most of us imagine. There are many reasons for it. Sometimes the “helper” is consciously or unconsciously envious of us. Or they may see some quality in us that they think we have in common with them, so they encourage us to develop that quality, even though we feel that we’d rather move in another direction.
This kind of intrusive help can hold us back and even do us a lot of damage if we don’t pick up on it and put a stop to it. One time, many years ago, a woman who was older than I was took an interest in me and befriended me. I was flattered because she seemed so experienced in life and so sure of herself. As time went by, without my realizing it, she started controlling me little by little—telling me how I should dress, how I should wear my makeup, what I should say and not say. Looking back at it now, it’s amazing to me that I didn’t pick up on it immediately, but I was young and impressionable, and I wasn’t aware of what was happening until one day I suddenly felt as if I were being smothered or choked. I cut her off, rather abruptly as I recall, and of course she was angry and devastated. But I was free, and that’s what mattered to me.
The truth is, we never need personal help with our uncertainties and indecision. No one can know what we really need or want but ourselves. We have to let our spiritual intuition guide us to the right answers. Talking too much to others about challenges we’re facing is never helpful. Sure, once in a while we need a shoulder to cry on, but that’s different. I’m talking about the tendency to lean on others and hope, consciously or unconsciously, that they’ll make our decisions for us.
Much time that could have been spent in a better way is lost because of this false kind of influence and dependence. I’ve found it helpful to carefully weigh what people tell me about my life, what direction I should or shouldn’t go in, and so on. But I confess that it took me many years to wake up and stop letting people guide my life according to their wishes. I don’t think it needs to take that long. With more awareness, we can nip it in the bud.