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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

How to Ask for & Accept Help; Why a Toxic Childhood Creates Fear & Shame in Vulnerability

Developmental trauma from a toxic or abusive upbringing shows up in all sorts of ways in our adulthood. One specific quality we get is shame & a sense of threat around the idea of asking for, or accepting, help.

We have learned (either through being told or having it role modeled) that needing help or receiving help is going to create problems. Getting help puts us in a lower position to the person who helped us or gives others around us the impression that we are deficient or defective in some way.

Those problems could be having someone 'lord it over you' that they helped you, constantly treating you as indebted to them. They could use these circumstances as pressure for you to behave in certain ways, bound by the exchange. This also relates to having them pressure an unequal demand to 'return the favor.' Possibly even argue a requirement of loyalty to them (their ownership of you, due to your debt for their kindness.)

No wonder a sense of danger or threat has been created from 'help.' It translates to someone else having control of you.

Needing help could also be treated as weakness - that asking for or needing help means you are incapable or broken in some way. This is how shame gets created in situations of support or help. Toxic relationships, damaged & sensitive egos, narcissists, bullies - all have a battle of hierarchy & power going on. Needing, getting, requesting, even just wanting help puts you lower in the social pecking order.

Just remember, the only people pressuring shame on you for getting help, are people who feel scared & ashamed themselves, for getting help due to their own low self worth.

This is the toxic or abusive people in your developmental environment making vulnerability an unsafe state. This often wires us to become obnoxiously & exhaustively independent or self sufficient, even if it hurts us. We will suffer when we don't need to. We will choose loneliness & hide rather than have support. We will perceive vultures in places they don't exist. We will reject offers of healthy help due to patterns of skepticism.

The odd time we accept help, we may 'fawn' and behave in subordinate ways, even if the person offering is not toxic. Or reactive & sensitive to poorly interpreted interactions due to our programming for suspicion & vigilance.

So how do we get past this?

The first step is realizing that asking for/accepting help isn't what is dangerous.

(It's actually the opposite - NOT asking for/accepting help IS dangerous.)

I say this a lot - we are a tribal species. Humans are not meant to live independently, outside of a community. That's actually how humans (and other animals) have punished each other since the dawn of time. When someone isn't respecting the group rules of cooperation, we cut them out of the herd & send them into the badlands - or seclude them in prison.

We function in groups to BE ABLE to give & receive help. EVERYONE at multiple points in their life, needs support & help. It's a fact of life. The other fact is - to need it or receive it is NOT the dangerous aspect. The danger & shame comes from is WHO is involved. The dynamic that is created & tolerated by the people involved makes 'help' functional or dysfunctional.

Second, spend the time looking at your past experiences. Build awareness of the toxic ways you experienced help & how that dysfunctional blueprint was build inside of you. This can give you reference points for what needs to change in your mind & in your behavior. Take time to think through or write out your experiences. Separate the person involved & their behavior from the circumstance of the 'help.' Its 99% more likely that the circumstance was neutral & the person involved was dangerous.

Third, change the language - neuro linguistic programming is key. If you feel that YOU accepting help is weak or asking for it makes you selfish...think about what it feels like to be the person who is helping. Helping others usually feels good. You might even be a person who LOVES helping others. You're so glad when you see someone shift from struggling to thriving because of something small & easy you did for them.

So when you're the person who needs help - imagine how a healthy person in your life feels when they 'get' to help. Even organizations that are designed for the exact purpose of 'helping' people are full of humans who are happy to do so. Work on flipping the script. If you're looking for help - there are supportive, loving, healthy people looking for you. Give them something to do! Don't rob them of the opportunity to be of service.

Fourth, learn about & research what healthy help, support & exchanges look like between people. It's really hard to start leaning into healthy help, if you don't know what that looks like. Look at skills like boundaries, forgiveness, ownership, conflict resolution, accountability & fluid acceptance. It's difficult to identify things in our environment if we don't know what they are suppose to look like.

Additionally, learn to stop at the beginning of unhealthy offers for support. Build boundaries so even if you accidently make a deal with someone toxic - you know how to say, "no, thank you," and stand your ground.

Last - if you are f*cking drowning... you are not able to show up in this world to keep doing the amazing things you are meant to be doing.

I always use the example of a life jacket. If we are spending all of our time kicking & treading water to the point of exhaustion - we don't have the energy to be a great (or even good enough) parent. We don't have the energy to show up for our job & our clients. We don't have the energy to show up for our relationship or our friends. If we are struggling to take care of ourselves & there are rafts floating around, specifically meant to help you float so you can rest & build back your life jacket...take it. Those rafts are built for that exact purpose. You're not going to make 'good' decisions while you feel tired, stressed, scared or at a base layer of survival in reptile brain.

Get the help you need to shift up to mammal brain - then you can organize yourself into Thriving - where the real magic happens.


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If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.

Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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