Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Carrot or the Stick

You've heard the expression ... It means that in order to motivate someone you either offer them a carrot if they do what you want... or you hit them with a stick until they do what you want. It's used with donkeys (jack-asses) since they're so stubborn.

Reasonable way of getting what you want, right?

Not really. Actually, it's kinda lame. If you have to put that much energy into getting someone or something to do what you want them or it to do... is it really worth it after all? I guess that depends on what you're hoping to gain ... it also depends on whether or not all you have is a donkey to do the work.

There's all kinds of work that this can be applied to: Housework, homework, career work, yard work. There's one place where this concept is just NEVER appropriate... AT ALL. When someone's feeling down.

You can't fix that. You can't change it. You can't make it better. They have to do it on their own. People know this... and that's when the temptation comes in to MAKE them do it on their own. (What a concept!) "Look at that shiny carrot! All you gotta do is stop feeling this way!" or "Sheese! Why do you have to feel this way all time? You need to stop and deal with it and make your life better or no one will ever want to be around you!"

Although these statements are true... truth is not a substitute for faith... and depression is caused by loss of faith.

If I'm feeling down about something, you can beat me up all day telling me about what I need to do... it doesn't help. It doesn't make one bit of difference. If the light is off, and I want it on... I have to turn it on. I have to change it. Telling me what will happen if I do or do not turn the light on will not change a damned thing.

So what CAN you do here? Help to rebuild the faith. Help restore that which was lost. If I'm depressed, CHEER ME UP. Don't point out the sores on my soul and tell me I need to do something about them. They will heal over time. It would be better to not do anything rather than sit there and point them out to me. I know they're there... you don't have to remind me!

I see it a lot. I see people that try to help, to intercede and provide solace and comfort. This doesn't help unless the person is absolutely and completely exhausted. The trainer doesn't comfort and coddle the boxer between rounds. He doesn't offer to fight the fight for the boxer. He pats the boxer on the back, builds up his confidence and sends him back out there to fight his fight.

Now, this can get more complicated if you're part of the reason the person is depressed. There's REALLY nothing you can do at that point... except to live your life and SHOW how much fun it is to "turn the light on."

Now this NEXT part is really sickening... and yeah... it DOES happen... and ANYONE who tries to deny it in their own life is lying to themselves and everyone else:

Someone holding a grudge will keep holding that grudge until the person they're holding a grudge about is completely out of the picture. Then, and only then, will they drop it. It's sickening! It happens! I do it! You do it! Why? We've been hurt... whether it was intended or not, we got hurt and attached a name to it.

But why hold the grudge? To SHOW the person that we're hurt! To appeal to their compassion and reel them in for comfort or accusation (or an odd combination of both). Letting GO of that grudge is WICKED HARD to do. But there's no way you can pry their fingers from it. It's not possible.

So... while you're having fun and trying to SHOW your depressed friend how much fun life is, they're going to hold on to that grudge until the weight becomes unbearable even
for themselves. Your faith in their ability to survive and to kick that survival instinct into gear has to be strong enough to overcome your empathy for them. You're doing them a favor whether it feels like it or not.

"What if what I'm doing is causing pain for my depressed friend even though it's not intended?"

There's a choice to be made here. Either you stop doing whatever it is that depresses them, or you do it away from them until they can get used to your behavior. Personally, I think the second option is better. The first option shows that you're willing to give in and that you're less important than they are. The second option shows respect for the other persons feelings yet doesn't compromise your own beliefs. If there was love there before, it will overcome any obstacles.

There's an inherent danger in the second option though... you can become just as needy and demanding as your depressed friend. Making them meet you on your terms is no better than them making you meet them on their terms. You have to each come half-way... or not at all... if it's going to work.

Well, I've rambled enough about this. To wrap it up... you can be sympathetic... just don't forget that you can't be sympathetic without being pathetic first.

(Long way to go for a joke? You decide ... maybe it was a joke... maybe it wasn't).


1 comment:

Luke said...

well said Jenna!