I was recently in a situation where I wanted to help someone who was being self-destructive and couldn’t see it. The fact that I wanted to help became a much bigger problem, because the person then accused me of being “limiting”.
How to deal with a self-destructive person
After this happened I googled how to deal with a destructive person and found some do’s and don’ts.
The article I read suggests that you should:
- Let the person know you love him/her;
- Let the person know that you understand the struggle and how challenging it can feel to let go of something that they experience as helpful;
- Tell them that they deserve support, rather than tell them that what they’re doing is wrong;
- Communicate that you believe that they can find new ways to cope with whatever the underlying issue for the destructive behavior is;
- Be clear that it’s not your problem to fix;
- Realize that you don’t have the power to change them;
- Learn how to set and hold appropriate boundaries;
- Know that you have the right to end a friendship/relationship when it’s abusive, unfulfilling, one sided or when the person adamantly refuses to get the help they need to be healthy.
What I think of the suggested ways of dealing with a self-destructive person
This is all great advice, but I personally find it difficult to just “let go” of the feeling that I need to help the person. You can tell them that you understand all you want, but in the end if you’re honest to yourself and the person, you (usually) do not understand why someone is being destructive. Furthermore, you might get the thought “I can’t go on like this, because all I want to do is help and you’re pushing me away for this/ you’re getting angry at me for this” and actually communicate this to him/her and it gets interpreted as you not caring about them. This is because they only heard the part “I can’t go on like this”.
An extreme example: When someone I care about, holds a gun to his/her head, I think it’s only logic that I jump in and stop him/her or that I at least take away the gun.
I can’t just stand by, keep smiling and watch him/her destroy him/herself even if he/she thinks that the gun isn’t loaded, for example…