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The Psychology of Helping. Alison Hardingham, MA Oxon, C Psychol Visiting Executive Professor , Henley College of Management Director of Business Psychology, Yellow Dog Consulting. Purpose of my dialogue with you today.

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the psychology of helping

The Psychology of Helping

Alison Hardingham, MA Oxon, C Psychol

Visiting Executive Professor , Henley College of Management

Director of Business Psychology, Yellow Dog Consulting

purpose of my dialogue with you today
Purpose of my dialogue with you today
  • To explore and understand what goes on between and inside us when we help each other, and so become better able to help with lasting benefit and no harm
structure of my dialogue with you today
Structure of my dialogue with you today
  • Who I am and what I believe
  • What do we mean by ‘helping’ here?
  • Some provoking comments
  • Some thoughts about the psychology of helping
  • Some thoughts about the risks of helping
  • Some practical recommendations for the development and support of those who help
  • Open dialogue
who i am and what i believe
Who I am and what I believe
  • Business psychologist
  • Executive coach, and teacher/supervisor of coaches
  • Eclectic
  • Biased towards evolutionary biology and psychodynamic approaches
  • ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ (Socrates)
slide8

‘With great puzzlement and a furrowed brow he said, ‘I don’t understand why you are so angry with me. I wasn’t trying to help you.’(From Wilfred Bion’s work with groups)

slide9
‘(De Gaulle) also had a real hatred of the Americans, and a kind of love-hatred complex about the British. The truth is – I may be cynical, but I fear it is true- if Hitler had danced in the streets of London, we’d have had no trouble with de Gaulle! What they could not forgive us is that we held on, and that we saved France. People, can forgive an injury, but they can hardly ever forgive a benefit.’ (Harold Macmillan, quoted in Charlton’s ‘The Price of Victory’, BBC, 1983)
slide10

The act of helping another person is often not simple and straightforward. It derives from complex motivations, in both helper and helped, and it has complex and long-lasting consequences, often unforeseen at the time of helping.

why do we help
Why do we help?
  • Kinship
  • To ensure our own survival (physical, social and psychological)
why do we seek help
Why do we seek help?
  • Kinship
  • To ensure our own survival (physical, social and psychological)
slide15

When we help, we build our own ‘survival credits’ at another human being’s expense, evolutionarily speaking.

slide17
Helping and being helped can elicit transfer of emotions and behaviours from those early and most powerful human relations: those between parent and child.
  • So the motivation to help taps directly into our ‘inner theatre’ and is often underpinned by powerful, complex and unconscious forces.
some thoughts about the risks of helping
Some thoughts about the risks of helping
  • Dependency – genuine and cynical
  • Omnipotence
  • Exploitation
  • Disappointment, despondency, exhaustion
  • Avoidance of one’s own issues and, ultimately, loss of self
  • Anger is often the ‘presenting symptom’.
some practical recommendations
Some practical recommendations
  • Those who help need to explore and understand their own motivations for helping.
  • Those who help need to ensure a balance between helping and being helped, in their own lives.
  • Those who help need supervision.
supervision
Supervision
  • A (usually guided) process of reflection and dialogue which enables:
  • - self-awareness, honesty and compassion
  • - personal and professional development
  • - emotional support and re-charging
  • - the management of ethical boundaries and the assurance of ‘safe helping’
slide22

‘No man is an island……..any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.’ (John Donne)

reading list
Reading list
  • ‘The Coach’s Coach’, Alison Hardingham, 2004
  • ‘Awareness’, Anthony De Mello, 1990
  • ‘How the Mind Works’, Steven Pinker, 1997
  • Leadership Coaching’, Graham Lee, 2003
  • ‘The Leader on the Couch’, Manfred Kets De Vries, 2007
  • ‘Supervision in the Helping Professions’, Hawkins and Shohet, 1989