Eric K. Mason
How Can I Help?
How Can I Help? By Ram Dass and Paul Gorman is an inspirational book that deals with how people can better help one another. It is particularly valuable for those who are interested in becoming helping professionals, such as counselors, social workers, or psychologists. Although the book is somewhat directed towards helping professionals, it would be a good read for anyone interested in learning how to help others (e.g., such as people who want to become a better friend to those important in their lives).
One thing that the book caused me to think about was the concept of helping professions. In others words, I began to find it a little strange that in our society there are people who are considered “helping professionals;” that is, people who get paid to help or care about others. Although it seems that people want to help others as a natural instinct, we still find it necessary in our culture to employ people to care about people. Before reading How Can I Help? I never considered the idea of a helping professional as strange at all.
I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes throughout How Can I Help? Dass and Gorman used these anecdotes to help illustrate the main points of each of their chapters. Furthermore, the anecdotes help to keep the book interesting, as each anecdote was rather thought provoking. In other words, these anecdotes made me think about how I might respond as a helping professional to each situation described.
How Can I Help? made me think about why I have chosen to enter into a helping profession. Dass and Gorman point out that sometimes people are motivated to help others in order to feel needed and wanted by others, as well as to feel a sense of power over others. It is interesting to me to contemplate what my motivation for helping others is. Although I had not spent much time considering my motivations for helping others, reading How Can I Help? has forced me to ask this difficult question of myself. (Dass and Gorman, 1985)
I also like how the book pointed out that certain things may sometimes serve as distractions from helping. For example, we may choose to deny the suffering of others so that we will not have to face our own pain. Furthermore, Dass and Gorman noted how all too often our response to the pain of others is a knee-jerk reaction brought on by our own insecurities about pain. For example, we may simply want to make the other person whole again as quickly as possible, so that we will not have to remain in the presence of pain for an extended period of time. (Dass and Gorman, 1985)
I liked how Dass and Gorman shared various religious perspectives with the reader. I thought it was interesting that they pointed out that most religions basically say the same thing about how to be less selfish in order to lead a more positive life. I have often thought that religions can be a positive influence and that it did not matter so much what religion(s) one followed, as long as one was using the religion to lead a more positive life for themselves. It was nice to read real examples quoted from various religious scriptures in How Can I Help? that confirmed this belief for me. (Dass and Gorman, 1985)
I think How Can I Help? should be required reading for anyone thinking about entering into a helping profession. The best thing about the book was that it made me really take a look at myself and to examine why I have chosen to enter into a helping profession. Furthermore, it also has some practical tips that may help me better help others in the future. Overall, I enjoyed How Can I Help? and I am glad that I had to read it.
Dass, R., & Gorman, P. (1985). How can I help? New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.