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Dealing with a hikikomori is a delicate task for anyone, be it a parent, a teacher, a friend or a psychologist, since you have to deal with people who are deeply negative, discouraged and disillusioned with interpersonal relationships.
not to be pushed back, one must try to get around the barriers that they have
built against the social world, avoiding any kind of forcing or opinionated
attitude, but rather showing up as humble, empathetic and non-judgmental
In this post I will try to summarize the behaviours that, based on my experience, have proven to be effective in achieving positive results as well as those that, on the opposite, tend to generate further closure in the hikikomori and can sometimes make the condition of isolation even worst.
1. Recognize the suffering
Although the choice of the hikikomori might seem absurd and incomprehensible, it is necessary to break down one’s own mental barriers and strive to truly understand the deep social and existential distress they are experiencing, without trivialising nor belittling it in any way.
2. Relieve the pressure on social achievement
chooseisolation in order to escape from social competition and seek in their
own house a safe place where not being observed andconsequently judged. It is
therefore important to assume towards them a certain attitude that is not
perceived as an additional source of pressure to move away from.
3. Seek confrontation
Relieving pressure does not mean avoiding conflict at all costs. In fact, when properly managed, conflict can turn into an important tool for unlocking even complex situations. However, the ultimate goal of such conflict will always have to be encouraging dialogue and critical reflection about the problem, and not manipulating their intention.
4. Understand the problem systemically
Thinking that the hikikomori is a problem which only concerns the individual is
not correct. Instead, it is necessary to deal with the problem in a systemic
way, going to act on all those social, school or family factors that are likely
to have an impact on the condition of isolation. It is not a coincidence that
the support actions made by our association always start from the parents.
5. Empower them
Especially in case of
hikikomori being adults, it is important to make them feel they are treated the
same way as othersand not to show any attitude of superiority. At the same
time, not to treat them as if they were eternal children who need to be constantly
educated. It is crucial, in this sense, to give them the space, intimacy and
decision-making autonomy they need, butalso trying to empower them on the
consequences that their behaviours can have on the people around them, rather
than satisfying all their needs.
6. Be transparent
It often happens that parents act without the
knowledge of their children, with the aim of helping them, but this just contributes to generate
distrust and suspicion feelings. It is therefore essential to share and,
wherever possible, to agree upon any action undertaken towards them.
Break up routine
Since hikikomori tend to develop a rigid, solitary routine, it is important to try to get them involved in activities that help them break their patterns and bring a discontinuity from their isolation.
8. Focus on wellness
When you want to help a hikikomori, never forget that the priority remains to help him or her get better, not to immediately restore school attendance or the interrupted social life.
Behaviors to avoid
1. Showing an overprotective or dependence behaviour
When hikikomori begin
to isolate themselves, it often happens that the parent instinctively
reacts by increasing the degree of protection over the child. The problem is that this kind of behaviour entails the
risks of hindering their psychological and social growth, preventing them from
experiencing failure and disappointment.
2. Undertaking coercive actions
As much as the condition of hikikomori might be complex, an attitude of
imposition towards them almost never produces positive effects. For example, the
most common action is to forcibly deprive themof the Internet, mistaking it for
the source of the problem, but condemning them instead to an even sharper
and more dangerous isolation.
Self-denial and renouncing own well-being
It can happen that
parents renounce their own well-beingin an attempt to help the hikikomori child
in any way possible, obtaining instead the opposite effect. Such an attitude,
in fact, does nothing but increase the pressure and sense of guilt experienced
by the boy.
Treating them as sick persons
perceive that the person who proposes to helpconsider them as sicks to be
cured, theywill automatically react with pride and will tend to push that
5. Judging them for their own condition
In order to succeed in relating to a hikikomori, it is necessary to suspend
any kind of judgment on his or her decision to isolate themselves, focusing
instead on their malaise and what ledthem to that choice.
6. Pressing them to go back to school or hang out with friends
When hikikomori drop out of school or friends, parents will instinctively try to convince them to retrace their steps. This kind of attitude usually aggravates the situation and is likely to produce the opposite effect, generating in them the feeling of not being understood in their own discomfort.
In this article I wanted to try to expose myself, reporting several behaviours that, repeatedly observed, have often produced the same effect.
Obviously, what is reported here should not be adopted uncritically. It will have to be related to individual cases. All hikikomori have their own story and peculiarities, which make them unique and not framed within a pre-packaged set of actions.
For this reason, I invite all those who find themselves in the condition of dealing with hikikomori, to turn to a professional who can support and guide them in their daily actions. In this regard, we have recently introduced a free online help desk, which can be used for this exact orientation purposes.