Do you have a loved one who is suffering but is resistant to make a change or seek help? Perhaps they seem to be stuck in a cycle of making poor choices or otherwise suffering but not “doing anything” about it. You might feel worried, helpless, and frustrated. Here are some things to keep in mind:
They Have to Want to Change
It is important to remember that your loved one might not be ready to confront their problems. There are a number of reasons why someone might be resistant to taking steps to make changes or to seek or accept help. It could be that they don’t yet see themselves as having a problem or needing to make a change. For some, recognizing that they have a problem and that they need help can feel like defeat or failure. They may feel shame over their struggle, and in turn, they may either deny their suffering or make efforts to hide it.
It Might Take Longer Than You’d Like
Keep in mind that in order for real change to happen, the person has to be intrinsically motivated; ultimately, it is up to the person to either make changes or not. As someone who loves them, this can be difficult to accept. Your ideas about how the person should be living are likely wrapped up in strong emotions and to you, it might feel urgent that they make a change now. Unless the person is in a dangerous situation, however, it might not be as urgent as it feels that they recognize their problem. It might take time for your loved one to move through the process of whatever they’re facing. Be patient. Pressuring the person to recognize their problem is unlikely to be motivating for them to make a change.
Similarly, stepping in to “fix” the problem for them might leave them feeling ashamed instead of empowered. Instead, make it known to the person that you care about their wellbeing. Ask them how they’re feeling and listen to understand their perspective. By keeping an open mind, you may come to learn more about your loved one’s process and what they might already be doing to make improvements in their life. Help them to see their strengths. Remind them of the resources they have available to them. Trust that ultimately, they are responsible for themselves and they are competent to make changes if they want to.
It is typically easier for us to see patterns of behavior in others than it is to recognize our own. When we practice humility and seek to understand our own blind spots, we are better able to empathize with our loved ones. When others see you doing this work, they are also more likely to see you as someone they can trust to understand them instead of judge them. Meeting with a licensed therapist is a great way to better understand yourself and your loved ones.