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The Need for Help


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Help

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




There are times in our lives when we are in need and are unable to to help ourselves. In such desperate times we need help from others.

Times when we need help include:

  • When we are faced with a problem we cannot solve.
  • When we  have tasks that cannot be done by one person.
  • When we have hurt ourselves.
  • When we are being attacked.

When we need help, we often hope that others will offer help immediately and unconditionally, rather than our having to ask for help or even negotiate terms before the assistance is given.


An old person falls over in the street and is unable to get up. A passer-by helps them up and checks they are ok.

A person cannot move a large log by themselves. They ask their partner for help with this.


Related to


Part of Related to
Control The Need to Help



The need for help starts when we are young and incapable, when our carers must do everything for us. Perhaps because of this we find helplessness a deeply distressing state. The need for help may persist in people who are vulnerable in some degree, for example with difficulty in mobility or vision.

Help is often an exchange relationship, where social values dictate that we should help others, in particular friends and, sometimes, complete strangers. The principle of the exchange is give-to-get, where by giving help we build specific obligation or more general social capital.

Fortunately, or perhaps as a direct result of society, there is a matching need to help, where those who want to help are pleased to offer assistance to those who need help. A dilemma here is that giving of help may result in the giver eventually wanting something back in return. In many relationships this can easily happen, but when there is asymmetrical vulnerability, then the vulnerable person can only be grateful. If the pleasure of giving and knowing they are appreciated is not enough for the giver of help, then this may damage the relationship.

So what?

If you need help, ask, and others will feel obliged to offer you help. Be careful in this as asking for too much may result in refusal, especially for those who are more socially distant. A way to overcome this is to start by asking for something small, then ask for increasingly more significant assistance.

See also

The Need to Help, Vulnerability and Values

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