Max is 36, married, and has a good job in sales. He’s a capable and committed partner to his wife, Kristen, and a likeable friend and coworker to others. Max prides himself on his ability to keep his cool and problem-solve, which he considers among his strongest traits. The only problem is, when Max doesn’t know how to handle a situation or he needs help, he has tremendous trouble asking for assistance.

When Max was nine years old, his father walked out on the family, which caused a lot of responsibility to fall onto Max. His mother returned to work, which meant that Max was forced to be entirely self-sufficient very early in his life. He had to rely on his wits because no one else was around to help him at home. His ability to get to the bottom of the problems he faced was essential and most importantly it showed his mother that she could depend on him.

Now that Max is older, he’s surrounded by people who would be happy to pitch in, but the years of conditioning are hard to break. He has trouble allowing himself to show any vulnerability, even with his wife. For her part, Kristen understands Max’s history, but she can’t help but feel hurt and cut off by his hyper-competence and divisive independence.

When Max does something well, it reinforces his self-esteem, but it also isolates him and can drive away the people in his life who want to be with him. He’s tried to open up and allow himself to be more vulnerable, but it’s hard to break free from his lifelong family pattern.

Clinical Considerations
By avoiding the help of others, Max sends the message that he doesn’t need or value them. He fails to see how making room for others to help him supports THEM, too. Asking for and receiving assistance is a wonderful way to affirm the importance of another person. Max wishes he could let go and receive from the people in his life but the thought of doing this panics him because he associates love and security with taking care of himself and doing for others.  

Will Max continue to do it all by himself, or will he dare to join with his loved ones and make room for them to help him? Participation in group psychotherapy is a treatment option Max is considering.  He wonders if in the safe environment of group, he could explore how collaboration with others could work for him.