Ask Deepak: How to Support a Friend Who Doesn't Want Help
By Deepak Chopra
March 31, 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 have a friend who is in the midst of a crisis. She calls me on a regular basis to complain about her loneliness, and she cannot think of one thing to be grateful for. She has been diagnosed and is medicated for bipolar disorder. She drinks heavily (although she's not supposed to with her medication), smokes, involves herself with married men and is about to lose her home after spending a large inheritance. I have listened with a sympathetic ear for years now, and I care about her well-being, but recently I have begun to feel like an enabler, and I have been emotionally drained by her phone calls. I recently told her I am no longer willing to merely listen to her problems, but I would be willing to help her find solutions to her self-destructive behavior. She became very angry with me and told me I was a miserable, judgmental person. Now I feel terrible that I seem to have created more pain for her. Deepak, did I do the right thing? What is the best way to support a friend in this situation? Thank you.
— Ann S., Chicago
Readers everywhere are shaking their heads, wondering why you want to be a carpet for someone else to walk over? That's the issue here. You wasted years indulging your friend's many self-inflicted problems, a role that's about as thankless as any I can think of. You've permitted yourself to count for very little while she magnetizes every conversation to herself. Now, to top it off, you're looking for ways to feel guilty about not doing enough.
Please, try to develop the quality known as strength. Otherwise, you will be somebody's carpet again. The first place to start is with boundaries. Your friend trampled on you because you let her, and when you—feebly and gently—stood up for yourself, she was outraged. Let her go her own way. Learn when to say no by first checking in to how you feel. If someone is taking advantage of you, the feeling is never good. Notice when it doesn't feel good and put up limits, such as, "I can only talk for a few minutes." Then, when you find your limits are respected, you will discover that, as good as it feels to help others, it feels just as good to be strong.