Ask Deepak: How to Help a Family Member Who Won't Get Help
By Deepak Chopra
January 27, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I want to know if we are not to judge others and we are to love unconditionally, how do we deal with a loved one who is in such a spiritual mess that it has affected her life and relationships? Loved dearly, this person cannot get out of her pain. To let her go on (which we have done) will be her demise. Sharing concern usually leads to a short conversation. She needs help in every sense of the word but feels money is the only answer to get her out of trouble. We offer love but are tapped out on the money. This is not drugs, alcohol or gambling. We are talking depression, hoarding and spending. Her home is a reflection of the pain and chaos inside her life.
— Odie P., Waukegan, Illinois
You are facing a double problem. Your relation—let's call her your daughter—is constantly rationalizing her mess instead of facing it. You are rationalizing her rationalizations. The two of you, in other words, are sharing in denial and helplessness. An emotional bond is making you do this. Perhaps your daughter learned her behavior from you. Perhaps you both learned it together in childhood if she's not your daughter.
Your real question, then, is how to stop rationalizing. You can't stop her, and that's not your responsibility. Depression is a serious problem, but many depressed people lead productive lives. They don't leech off others. If this is clinical depression, your daughter needs to seek professional help and stop neglecting her duty to herself and to you. But let's say she won't do any of these things. What is your responsibility?
Feel what you feel, but act sensibly.
Learn that "no" isn't the same as "I don't love you."
Look closely at your tendency to be a martyr. Also, look at your need to control. Either you or your spouse probably has one of these issues.
Realize that suffering doesn't make you a good person. It also doesn't make you part of the solution.
If you know that your daughter can't be helped, don't keep doing more of what didn't work in the first place.
Your daughter needs to wake up to her actual situation. If you can't help, stop fixing and walk away. She may be shocked; she may get more depressed. But only when she stops leaning on others without making progress will she get better. I regret that the road ahead is so rocky. But better a rocky reality than a smooth illusion.