I attended a seminar last night on the subject of ‘Helper Syndrome’. It was enjoyable and thought-provoking. Our speaker was knowledgeable and engaging and I enjoyed our small group discussions and the opportunity to reflect on areas of my coaching practice. This experience has provoked my deeper reflection on the subject of psychological labels.
When I hear the word ‘syndrome’ it makes me think of a clinical condition. A quick look on Wikipedia and the list of syndromes are many and varied and indeed our presenter said that one of the definitions of ‘Helper Syndrome’ comes from the medical literature.
Last night’s experience about ‘Helper Syndrome’ has reminded me of the time, many years ago, when Dr Petrusha Clarkson came to talk to my MSc. in Management Development group on the subject of pseudocompetency, which probably underpins the now current topic, ‘Imposter Syndrome’. When Dr Clarkson described what pseudocompetency was and the effect it can have, almost all of us said they suffered with pseudocompetency and they now felt a sense of relief to be able to put a label on a condition that they were until then unaware of.
As a coach, does ‘Helper Syndrome’ have the same draw? Does the terminology help to legitimise our behaviour. Coaches help people, it’s what we do but is there a danger of falling under the spell of identifying with a label without deeper reflection into our self-awareness and an honesty about saying this is not me? I am curious to know what is the opposite of ‘Helper Syndrome’?
Last night’s experience reminded me of my earlier experience with Dr Clarkson. Last night, many people in the room seemed to identify readily with ‘Helper Syndrome’ and I wonder if that is really the case. We might not have been truly representative of the coaching population at large but nevertheless it served as a timely reminder for me to be a little more reflective and critical rather than readily accepting and agreeable. Perhaps that’s another Syndrome in the making!