where the writers are
Why do we help others? (and getting ready to write)
Snow petrel.jpg

"...whenever we feel an urgency or longing to help, it’s often rooted in the fear of facing our own unhealed pain."

This is Ezra Bayda's proposal in his article 'The "Helper" Syndrome' on Tricycle. He encourage us to be curious about what's going on when we help others. Are we subconsciously seeking approval, or propping up our flagging sense of usefulness?

The questions feel very relevant to my work both as a therapist and as a writer. As a therapist I've already done some exploration, in training and in my own therapy, around what drew me to being a therapist. I like to contain other people's chaos - it makes me feel safe. I like to be 'the one who knows'. All these subtle motivations (which run alongside more 'wholesome' ones) will have an effect on my work with clients, and not being honest about them is more dangerous than including them in my acknowledgement of who I am.

 As a writer, I have a drive to write which runs underneath any worldly expectations. But I am also riddled with compulsive needs for recognition, approval, fame, fortune....

I am getting ready to write my fifth novel. As always, I've no idea how to write a novel - how the hell did I do it before? And maybe more importantly, why do I do it? It's no picnic in the park, writing a novel, you know.

What is helpful, though, is to remind myself of all the reasons why I write. Yes, I write because I want people to think I'm wonderful, to give me lots of money, to bow down before my greatness (!). But. I also write because I want to get to know my characters as they appear, which helps me to know myself. I want to try and make something beautiful. I want to share what little I know with other people - an offering. I want to offer my writing self to you all, in good faith.

Bayda again: "The question is: Where in our life do we do good, at least in part, to subtly solidify the self? Where do we get in our own way? Where do we use even our identity as a spiritual seeker,or the comfort of being part of something bigger,to cover the anxious quiver of being?"

I hope I can manage not to get in my own way too much, but to allow the writing to flow through me. To let my ego dissolve and become, as Bayda says, a white bird in the snow.

My new character is called April. I hardly know her, but I trust she's got lots to teach me. I resolve to acknowledge all of my varied motivations to write, and to give them plenty of space. I resolve to offer myself to the service of the writing. I resolve to love being a writer, to be grateful for the opportunity.

What is your relationship with doing good? What do your resolutions need to be right now?


7 Comment count
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Lovely post

Lovely post, Fiona. Very thought provoking and I thank you for sharing your thoughts so frankly.

What is my relationship with doing good? What do my resolutions need to be right now? Great questions that lead to simple and complex answers at the same time. Maybe I'll do a blog to answer you! :) Aw, I don't know.

Anyway, thanks again. Lovely post as always. I hope all is well with you.

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Thank you Ryoma

Good to hear from you - I hope things are good for you too. Yes - a complicated question! All we can do is live with it, I suppose, and be on the look-out for our mixed motives...

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Thanks for this beautifully reflective post, Fiona.

Rather than a comment here, there's a response on my page.




btw Good luck with the new book!

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Thank you Rosy

Hope you're well - off to your page now!

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Thank you Rosy

Hope you're well - off to your page now!

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Thoughtful post, as always.

Thoughtful post, as always. I'm so much in survival mode lately, it's hard to think about 'doing good.' Perhaps that's a safeguard of a sort. You have to have reasons for action beyond what's in it for you, because chances are, not much will be when you're stretched thin to breaking. Actually, I am learning to be good to myself--not beating my self up over, well, lots of things. Drove home from a therapy session today in a VERY silent car with my (insert familial noun here) and looking out at the dappled trees, I thought to myself: You know? This isn't my fault.

Hope you and April are getting along.

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Hi Helen

That sounds like VERY good stuff. We can take responsibility for our actions AND be compassionate with ourselves. Thanks for your comment and good luck with your continued journey.