Is Helping Overrated? Susan Luff Comments

Yesterday’s teleconference with Susan Luff on the question, “Is Helping Overrated?” including a number of thought provoking comments by Susan. Here are a few I have been mulling over:

– Not all people find helping compelling. Some seem to have their radar tuned for it. They are on alert, on duty.

– To be an overfunctioner is to feel overresponsible, to do too much, to talk too much. It’s more than helping, more than being overworked. The key piece is an external focus, that draws one away from one’s own internal state.

– There’s a quality of invasiveness than can occur in overfunctioning. Sometimes, though not always, people resist our helpful efforts (in the medical world this is called noncompliance).

– Susan gave the example of an individual who began to manage his overfunctioning, and found he got depressed. He was taking up residence in himself, and having to feel that and be in it. “He landed where he really was.” At the same time, she said, when we stop overfunctioning so much, it frees up an enormous amount of energy for creative endeavors.

The recording of the teleconference is available. E-mail me at, and I’ll send you the link.

2 replies on “Is Helping Overrated? Susan Luff Comments

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Thanks, Israel. I can monitor my own anxiety level by the degree to which I feel inclined to be overly helpful or give too much advice. I can lower it by reminding myself of my own principles, including the fact that when people learn to be responsible for their own lives, it is better for everyone.

  • Israel Galindo

    Good thoughts from Susan, thanks. I chuckled at the line “Not all people find helping compelling.” It certainly describes me (as my students complain, “Dr. Galindo never gives us the answers!”).

    I’ve recently encountered several overfunctioners. Indeed, it is invassive, despite their attempts at being helpful. I’ve been struck at how closely tied emotional overfunctioning is to one’s family of origin functioning. It helps me appreciate that overfunctioning is a dynamic of family emotional process more than it is a “behavior.” My second insight is about how blind persons can be about the consequences of their our functioning, and their own emotional state, when they are anxious. It can be pretty scary.


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