Helping someone seems harmless enough in the beginning. But past a certain point helping them can keep them from learning. A person who isn’t learning becomes more and more vulnerable to harm over time. And you become vulnerable over time as you surround yourself with people you have inadvertently worked hard to keep stupid. Most of us understand this.
But understanding is often not prevention. If reading this you recognize some resentment and exasperation about a current situation, it is probably a sign that you are the cause of the problem, not them. Maybe you are becoming kind of an asshole to boot. People don’t like you even though you do a lot for them. To make matters worse, in this weakened state you have to find a way to do the thing you fear most, letting things go badly for awhile – stop fixing. Instead, what I am proposing in this post, is that to replace fixing with being soothing to folks as they go through the pain that accompanies most learning. You actually need to be nicer, a more beautiful person, because to break the cycle you are going to have to let things around you get ugly. You have to offset that ugliness with kindness and compassion.
It is a hard trap to escape though. We are actually addicted to repetitively using ‘the fix’ to soothe pain and stress, theirs and ours. We kill two birds with one stone, preventing their pain and our own with our fixes. It is pretty satisfying, we get to see ourselves as benevolent, but ultimately, it is not too wise, and not really so benevolent
There is a time for everything: a time to learn, a time to fix, and a time to soothe. Of these three we are most likely to dismiss the importance of soothing others and ourselves. It does not feel productive, and seems like a waste of time to soothe. Our deficits in understanding about how to soothe actually results in us becoming weaker and more fragile because we reflexively go to for the quicker fixes and block learning. We develop asymmetries of knowledge and skill in families and organizations, making them more fragile.
It turns out being able to recognize your own pain and being able to soothe yourself is not really an optional skill. We have been duped by the promise that we are in a rat race that we can win and all this stress will be worth it in the end. Our society shits on the skill of soothing ourselves and others, but since it is not optional to human functioning to be soothed, we instead spend billions on it: alcohol, drugs, quackery, social media, infidelity, pornography, etc. We also self-soothe when we procrastinate, call in sick to work a lot, and avoid tough but important decisions and activities.