Moderating your care for others

Caring for others involves a ‘cycle of care’, sometimes checking in, sometimes allowing independence. Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

If you’re a helpful person, then you are likely, at times, to get exhausted.  There are a large number of people who, one way or another, need help, and you are only one person.  How do you balance your resources to avoid exhaustion?

It reduces the pressure if you can take a wider perspective.  Imagine that you have care of a child.  You could, in theory, tend to that child so that it never experiences distress.  If you were on the ball enough, you could watch over it all day, constantly detecting any lack or need, and supplying it.

If you took on this ‘constant carer’ role, you would find that, in the long run, a problem would arise.  The child you are helping, while protected from immediate suffering, would have no power to help itself without you.  Your short-term solution to ending suffering has resulted in a ‘learned helplessness’ on the part of the object of your care.

There is a second problem.  When adult, the child may become aware that you sacrificed your own health in order to fulfil its immediate needs.  It may become guilty at the thought; or it may even react against you, and seek its own independence, in order to escape your influence.

In reaction, you might find yourself adopting animals, other objects of care, to fulfil your inner need to be constantly caring for other beings.  It is possible that the ‘constant carer’ is, in effect, being selfish, by depriving others of their independence.  A certain amount of ‘non-care’ may be necessary for healthy development.

Taking a wider perspective, then, you can balance the idea of ‘constant care’ with the idea of a ‘cycle of care’, where you check in with the object of your care, but do not attend to them twenty four hours a day.  This wider perspective is beneficial for others as well as yourself.  You get to rest, and they get to learn some independence.


Am I exhausting myself with constant worry about others?

Do I trust that those others might be able to lead a reasonable life with less of me, and more independence?

Am I able to take a wider perspective, sometimes checking in with others, and sometimes leaving them to their own devices?

Am I aware that care is a cycle, involving times of ‘non-care’, as well as times of care?