Often times a "helper"--and I say this as a recovering one--is a very angry person on the inside. We may begin our work with good intentions and motives, but if we press on down the path of self-inquiry we are bound to run into the wall of our own rage and frustration, and our own desire to be seen and noticed the way we see and notice others.
It does not help that most of our traditional religious paradigms extol and encourage the "helper" stereotype. A lot of our culture's rules and axioms are built around "should" and "duty" rather than genuine inspiration.
There is nothing wrong with "helping" (whatever that even means), but there is something quite dangerous about building an egoic identity out of being altruistic while secretly wanting more attention for oneself. It creates a beautiful statue with a very long, deep shadow.
I write all of this because I felt an old, old rage today while I was visiting a patient. The patient himself was just sitting at the kitchen table eating a ham and cheese sandwich, as jovial as could be. It was his caregiver that set me off. She is a lovely person, actually, but she likes to talk. A lot.
As she continued to talk I found myself literally getting hot with anger. I got very curious about this. Why, exactly, was I angry? Was it about the content of the conversation? No. Her personality? No. Anything about her? Not at all. This woman could have been Jesus himself giving a lovely sermon and I would have been annoyed.
My old friend rage was here to tell me that I need to pay more attention to my own needs. It had been a while since I had felt this way. Perhaps I thought I had "gotten over it."
Anger is often a sign that we are not taking appropriate action. Anger in the helping profession is often a sign that it's time to pay more attention to one's own body and one's own life.
My main "hobby," if you want to call it that, has been meditation. I have been a serious meditation student for almost a decade now. But meditation will not cut it when it comes to some things. In fact, sometimes a quiet meditation session can perpetuate the sense of being "needless" and therefore "spiritually evolved."
When it comes down to it, all of us simply want to be seen. Since I have come to this conclusion, it's as if I can see all of us "helpers" out there holding up our own signs that say, "PLEASE SEE ME!"--even while we bend over backwards to do something for someone else.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. In fact, if we judge ourselves for being this way, we are only perpetuating the very same struggle that has led us to this place (and thus feeding the vicious cycle of self-hatred).
We need to learn how to heal ourselves through our own inspiration. For me, improv acting, music, and writing have been some very important outlets. I have also begun the process of learning how to ask for love, and for help, from those I care about. For others it might be painting or poetry, or cooking. Who knows. But I can promise us all this--if we ignore the voice of our own desire to be seen and loved, we are killing ourselves. And a corpse cannot "help" anyone.