Beware of False Allies

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I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “beware of false idols”. Well same could be said of those people in your “inner circle”; those in your support system.

As chronically ill people we are often too tired, depleted, and focused on obtaining the practical help and services we need to feel better and to get better to clearly discern whether those in our support system are truly supportive and whether they are helping or in fact hindering or hurting us.

We may in our quest to feel better not see (or ignore) signs that others who seem to want to help in reality have agendas that run counter to what we want for our lives, and their attitudes and biases might even throw a monkey-wrench into our goals and plans.

When that person is a doctor or other medical professional, while such people may have been helpful initially there may come a time when they cease to be or when their true colors come out and show you who they really are versus who you thought they were at a very crucial time in your life.

Be kind to yourself: Sometimes for various reasons you may not recognize when someone in your inner circle is hurting rather than helping you, not respecting your wishes and boundaries, or otherwise acting in ways that end up detracting rather than adding to your health, well-being, and happiness.

You may start to see (or feel) that something isn’t quite right but brush this off as paranoia, telling yourself not to look a gift horse in the mouth, and you might find yourself hanging onto people longer than you should because you’re afraid you may be going from the frying pan to the fire.

A false ally can violate your trust, jerk you around emotionally, and leave you confused between what your heart versus your head tells you. At best they can be ineffectual and unhelpful, but at worst, a snake-in-the-grass who has the capacity to sabotage your health and your life. If this person is a doctor or other health professional and their actions are significantly hurting your life you may want to report them to their supervisor, the head of the department or facility, and in some cases, the medical licensing board. You might also decide to report them to the Better Business Bureau.

Impaired professionals are sometimes very toxic people and not fit to practice due to their own personal biases and problems and are unwilling to voluntarily work on them. In such cases repeated attempts to work things out with such a person are unsuccessful and continuing the relationship becomes untenable and anti-therapeutic.

Each person has to use their own judgment as to what to do when they begin to see signs that interactions with these helpers are not going well and put the necessary replacement infrastructure in place, but if the situation becomes so injurious that these people are doing more harm than if you had nobody fulfilling those duties/needs you may need to cut them out of your life for your own health and sanity even before you have better supports in place, then look for those afterwards.

Here are some distinctions between true allies versus false allies

True Ally Versus False Ally

  • True ally: you feel empowered and supports your confidence in making your own decisions. You feel happy, relaxed, inspired, comforted, and hopeful for the future.

  • False ally: you feel deflated and/or defeated, powerless, intimidated, and/or irritated after speaking with them and begin to doubt your own perceptions, feelings, and decisions.¬†

  • True ally: you feel secure in the fact that they’re there for you and will be for the duration.

  • False Ally: you have the growing feeling that their support could end with little or no warning or provocation, and it begins to feel conditional, they become increasingly unreliable, passive-aggressive (what I refer to as “weasel¬†meanness”); they “forget” to do tasks they promised, do them very slowly, need repeated reminders, or don’t keep their word, let important tasks like writing orders fall through the cracks, and leave you in a jam.

  • True Ally: Communication is two-sided and the person gives you confirmation that they agree and are supportive of your game plan, is happy for you (and may even offer to help unsolicited).

  • False Ally: What they say to you directly doesn’t seem to add up with what others hear from them about the same interactions with you, or you find evidence that they didn’t do what they said they’d do to help or support you.

  • True Ally: Their written and verbal communication seems warm and open, they smile, make eye contact, and answer questions fully and directly, seem interested in what you have to say, and respect your wishes. They point out and focus on your strengths and assets and seem happy to see or hear from you.

  • False Ally: Their written and verbal communication is evasive, stilted, legalistic, guarded, incomplete, needs repeated clarification, and communication with them seems inordinately hard even after repeated attempts. They don’t remember important facts, and seem uninterested or irritated by your requests/questions, and/or body language seems inconsistent with what they say verbally; i.e. they like you and want to help yet roll their eyes, cut you off when you talk, or under-react to, gloss over, or minimize the importance of your pain (physical or emotional).

  • True Ally: Willing to go to bat for you, recommend you, stick their neck out, defends you against attacks, takes steps to keep you safe, unequivocally “on your side”.

  • False Ally: Seems luke-warm or lack-luster in their endorsements of you to others, unwilling to stand up for you, conveys they believe others over you when you’ve been wronged or says directly they don’t believe you, questions your credibility directly or indirectly.

  • True Ally: Understands and appreciates you more over time, positive interactions increase, thoughtful and seeks to make thing easier for you given your individual circumstances, makes statements that convey that they care and feel warmly about you.

  • False Ally: Appears tired of you, less empathetic, seems uninterested and even annoyed about your individual needs, unwilling to put much time in, seems under-concerned about your condition and does nothing to reduce your work-load and stress level, and makes insensitive or sarcastic remarks referencing you in a bad light, takes an outright oppositional stance to helping with things in ways you request, even walks out of a room while you’re still talking.