Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
Do you find yourself using this phrase? Or do others in your life use this phrase when talking to you?
It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it? The implication is that I’m doing something, or saying something, or refusing to do something or say something, because I am looking out for your best interests. And behind that statement lies a belief that I know what is in your best interests. So I am deciding what’s best for you and taking action to help you achieve that.
Maybe there are cases when it’s right to do this. Children – especially young children – can’t always be expected to make sensible choices on their own, and nor perhaps can people with a mental illness, or some elderly people.
Hmmm….maybe, perhaps. But there is a trap here – if you start to think : “Fred’s getting a bit senile – he can’t make sensible choices, so I have to make them for him” there is a danger that you start to make all Fred’s choices for him, and that you never take Fred’s wishes into account. And of course, because of this, Fred may stop expressing his wishes – why would he bother if you never listen to him anyway? Fred is probably perfectly capable of making many choices for himself, given the opportunity and a bit of encouragement, and may feel somewhat patronised that you don’t let him do that.
We can easily slip into a mind-set where we feel that we are responsible for making decisions on behalf of others. Sometimes that may be what they need. More often it is not. More often, in fact, we are kidding ourselves – we are doing what we want to do and then justifying it by making out we’re doing it for someone else. Here are a few examples:-
“I didn’t tell you about my affair because I didn’t want to upset you” Or because I didn’t want to deal with the anger I thought you might feel towards me?
“I hit you because you need to learn”. Or because I need to control you?
The last example is an extreme case, but a very real one, of trying to justify something that is completely unjustifiable. I think this rationalisation of violence shows the same mind-set as many “little white lies”, concealments and unilateral decisions. Underneath these behaviours lies the belief that my opinion counts for more than anyone else’s. I feel that I know best, that your view doesn’t matter as much as mine, that I know better than you do what you are thinking and feeling, and what you need. It can start off as thoughtlessness, or selfishness, but it can develop into abuse.
So if you find yourself making decisions that are “for your own good”, stop and ask. And really listen to the answer. Maybe that person knows their own mind better than you do.