I Care About Someone With a Troubled Past. What Can I Do to Help?

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Closeup portrait of two attractive middle-aged female friends chatting in the park in a healthy lifestyle concept




Common sense

These terms no doubt mean something to you. Perhaps they draw up comfortable and happy memories. Maybe they remind you of what you never had. These are motivating words representing goals most of us like the idea of reaching. They are also concepts beyond reality for some people .

The Challenge: When we speak of love, our intentions fall within a range from the trite (“I love tacos”) to near impossible-to-describe profoundness (“I love my child”).

What if you had never seen displayed, or received family love? Emotionally or otherwise neglected children need help learning how to relate and trust. Without that help, and no framework to identify healthy relationships, it is quite possible a good-hearted adult will miss out.

How to Support this Person: Be an example of unconditional love. This does not mean allowing unsettling behaviors to go unaddressed. In fact, love this person enough to have boundaries. Through gentle communication, show the beauty of love – that it does not abuse, take advantage, play the doormat, or endorse bad behavior. Instead, it builds up, hopes for the best, and has the other person’s best interests at heart.

The Challenge: Just how is one who has been dealt dishonesty throughout childhood or beyond supposed to recognize trustworthiness? Kind people may try to invest in victims who have been lied to or betrayed most of their life, but positive messages fall short. This is because the languages of truth and trust are not understood.

How to Support this Person: Be faithful. Have boundaries. Never lie. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Carefully avoid making foolish promises. Give it time, even years.

The Challenge: We often hear during send-offs or even in therapeutic situations the concerned sentiment, “Be safe.” It means different things in varying contexts. If a formally abused individual does not know safety exists, how is she or he supposed to self-protect in practical ways?

How to Support this Person: Teach them in word and by example that safety is our right and often our responsibility. While we cannot predict every scenario, we can be basically prepared.  Teach this person to take his or her time in choosing emotionally safe friends. Provide information on how to draw healthy, not fear-producing, physical and emotional protections in relationships and situations. If you need help with this, ask for it.

The Challenge: Common sense may be elusive when a person has not been taught healthy ways of thinking, is emotionally incapable of moving beyond chaos, or whose circumstances have typically been manipulated on the vicarious whims of others.

How to Support this Person: Instead of pointing fingers and judging, try something constructive. You may help to change a life. First, set an example. Then gently encourage critical thinking. For instance, “What will be the result if you do such ‘n such?” “What do you want? Will this decision take you closer to your goal?” “What kind of person do you want to be, and what decisions today will help you be that kind of person?”  “Has this [behavior] worked in the past to help you or hurt you?”

None of us knows what we do not know. Everything we know has been at some point, taught to us. Investing in the future of another person looks different from self-righteousness, criticism, or superior assumptions of our knowledge.

Instead, change comes when we humbly accept the fact we are all learning. With this attitude we will change within, and become the kind of people able to lift others.



NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

– picture from Kozzi.com

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