The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Helium Hand



I read an article in the most recent issue of  O (Oprah) Magazine that I found myself both laughing and crying over, in recognition of familiar patterns in my life. It is called The Helping Tic written by Diana Spechler. In it, she comes clean on a habit in her own life. She laughingly refers to it as CHT. No, not some mental health diagnosis, although she indicates that it could very well be and I have yet to see it in the DSM IV …Chronic Helping Tic. It happens when someone makes mention of a need they have and immediately she comes up with an answer for them, although they may never have actually asked for a solution.  This is offered to strangers and loved ones alike.


It is an occupational hazard for me as a social worker. I (half) joke that I have a rolodex brain and if someone wonders about a resource for something, I mentally flip through it, until I rest on the correct card. I call myself a cosmic concierge since I seem to know where to get almost anything or connect with nearly anyone you might want. You know the six degrees of separation ( or Kevin Bacon, depending on your frame of reference:)  concept?  In my life, it is more like zero degrees of separation, since I generally know someone who knows someone.  So back to helping… If I am within earshot, often I will experience what I call ‘helium hand’ in which I notice my hand rising into the air like a helium balloon. “Put that hand down.”, I sometimes hiss at myself when I am tempted to reflexively volunteer my time or energy without thinking it through. Assisting out of obligation or a desire to look like a good guy…Saint Edie I’m not, but I have to admit, it does feel rewarding to be seen as the ‘go-to’ person. Yes, a bit of an ego dance and sometimes I trip over myself and my feet in an attempt to offer support. When I have done that in the past, there was more of a sense of what my friend Natalie calls ‘wanting to be essential’. Who doesn’t want to be that in the lives of those they love?  Now I help more out of choice and if asked, than in order to provide insurance/assurance that I will be loved and valued. 


It is in the danger zone for me as someone recovering through co-dependence. Who am I if I am not helping? Sometimes I have practiced what I refer to as ‘savior behavior’, in which I am attempting to fix/save/heal other people. A co-worker said the other day that a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) could easily stand for “Master of Saving The World”. True dat, sadly): I am deluded enough at times to buy into it. The truth is that no one is broken and so there is ultimately no need to ‘fix’ anyone. Certainly we all have our wounded places and for me, the idea is to acknowledge them, nurture and cradle them and then expose them to the sunshine; literally and symbolically. Sometimes the most loving thing I can do is be a supportive presence as the person moves through their own process. Helping ‘too much’ can be crippling or disempowering.


A poignant reminder is the person who saw a butterfly struggling to break out of the chrysalis. No matter  how he tried, the little critter remained trapped in his temporary home. The person took pity and broke open the shell. The butterfly emerged, but not with wings spread. What he didn’t know is that the butterfly body is filled with fluid and in order for the fluid to disperse into the wings, they need the pressure of the chrysalis to squeeze life into them. Instead of gloriously expanding wings and taking off into the wild blue yonder, it limped away and soon died. How often do we, however kindly and with compassion, ‘help’ when it is  not asked for or needed? My hand is raised at that question. 

So, are you willing to out down your helium hand and trust that the person/people will find their way without your marvelous intervention?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Wendy S.

    Awesome Edie !!!!!!! How beautifully written.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I thank you for the insight!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment RumpusWriter

    amen and thank you

  • Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    My pleasure. My helium hand and I are much better able to be discerning about choices these days….guilt free most of the time.

  • Qaadira

    Great insight, Edie. I’m searching for a stick pin right now to deflate my “helium hand”.

  • Shelora Fitzgerald

    Edie,thanks for the way you “told one on yourself.” By doing so, you invited all us other over-inflated egos to pop our own balloons. Brilliantly done. Thanks so much for pulling the scales off the eyes of a committed “know it all” who does it in the name of helping. After all, who would I be without telling you who you are, what you need, and, most importantly, how you need me to help you? How do you spell arrogance, again? Hmmmm……

  • Edie Weinstein


    I ‘tell on myself’ all the time. One of the bonuses of having this venue:) Such a naked sense of awareness in an effort to be authentic and transparent. As a long time co-dependent caregiver who is shedding that identity and the physical and emotional weight that it instilled, I am learning to receive as well as give support. As paradoxical as it might seem to some (unless, of course you have lived this way) folks who seem ‘self sacrificing’ really can be arrogant. “Oh, don’t mind me, I don’t need anything.” When you are the giver, you get to be ‘in charge’ since you do get to choose to whom, how much, when and what you give. When you are the receiver, you are vulnerable and ‘at the mercy’ of the other person

    Learning to be a love sponge and soak it all in, rather than a Teflon coated pan who deflects it. Not sure if written about that concept in the Bliss Blog, but even if it I did, it bears repeating.

    Blissings… <3

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